The Mississippi Blues Trail marker commemorating The Natchez Burning is near the intersection of Main Street and N. Wall Street in downtown Natchez, Mississippi.
The GPS location of this marker is: N31° 33.651′ W 91° 24.249′
The marker reads:
“THE NATCHEZ BURNING – One of the deadliest fires in American history took the lives of over 200 people, including bandleader Walter Barnes and nine members of his dance orchestra at the Rhythm Club (less than a mile southeast of this site) on April 23, 1940. News of the tragedy reverberated throughout the country, especially in the African-American community, and blues performers have recorded memorial songs such as “The Natchez Burning” and “The Mighty Fire” ever since.”
The Rhythm Club fire was certainly a significant event in American music history that deserves to be commemorated. But we don’t understand why the Mississippi Blues Trail has chosen to place this commemorative marker at this site, which has no apparent connection to the Rhythm Club fire, rather than placing it at the actual site of the Rhythm Club fire, several blocks from this Mississippi Blues Trail site.
The songs mentioned on this Mississippi Blues Trail marker are The Natchez Burning by Howlin’ Wolf and Fire At Natchez by John Lee Hooker. Note that John Lee Hooker’s lyric mistakenly has the fire occurring in 1936, not 1940. Here is a link to a second mp3 version of Howlin’ Wolf’s The Natchez Burning.
For a book with excellent information on the Rhythm Night Club fire, our Recommended Book is The Chitlin’ Circuit And The Road To Rock And Roll by Preston Lauterbach.
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