Ralph Lembo was a store owner and music promoter during the 1920’s and 1930’s in Leflore County, Mississippi who obtained recording contracts for musicians like Bukka White and Rube Lacey.
Ralph Lembo’s store in Itta Bena, Leflore County, Mississippi is still standing at 114 Humphreys Street in downtown Itta Bena.
Ralph Lembo’s historical reputation has been tarnished through articles by blues historians, including Gayle Dean Wardlow and Ed Komara, who wrote that musicians considered Ralph Lembo untrustworthy. Gayle Dean Wardlow has written that Charley Patton refused to work with Ralph Lembo because he considered Lembo untrustworthy.
New research by T. DeWayne Moore of the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund suggests that Ralph Lembo’s posthumous reputation has been tarnished unfairly and the criticism of Ralph Lembo as being untrustworthy is itself untrustworthy.
On 9 May 2016 we received an enquiry, through our Contact Us page, from Thelma Collins, the Mayor of Itta Bena, Leflore County, Mississippi, who told us she had seen our page on Ralph Lembo’s Store in Itta Bena and was considering applying for a Mississippi Blues Trail marker in Itta Bena.
Although there are several Mississippi Blues Trail markers near Itta Bena, there are not any actually in Itta Bena at this time.
Mayor Collins was thinking of a new Mississippi Blues Trail marker about B.B. King, who was born near Itta Bena and frequently travelled through the town.
For those unfamiliar with Ralph Lembo, he ran a furniture store in Itta Bena during the 1920’s and 1930’s and also acted as a talent scout for record labels like Paramount Records and Columbia Records.
Ralph Lembo is known to have set up a recording session for Rube Lacey and another for Booker “Bukka” White.
Ralph Lembo’s store in Itta Bena was central to that history.