Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Rev. Utah Smith's grave and recent finds

Rev. Utah Smith's grave at Carver Memorial Cemetery (Shreveport, Louisiana), June 5, 2016

I first heard the recordings of Shreveport-born guitar evangelist Rev. Utah Smith about ten years ago. Shortly thereafter, I discovered a few local newspaper articles about him and happened to begin corresponding with two music historians working to publish Smith’s biography. They informed me that he was buried in a Shreveport cemetery and asked if I could photograph the gravesite. Here’s a story of the experience plus a few Utah Smith related items that I’ve run across since the book’s publication in 2008.

If you’re new to Utah Smith, I recommend the following:

The way I remember it, around 2005, I noticed that WFMU disc jockey Kevin Nutt played a song by the Ever Ready Gospel Singers on his radio show, “Sinner’s Crossroads.” I emailed Nutt to compliment him on the Shreveport selection and introduce myself. The introduction turned out to be good timing. Nutt was slated to publish a book/compact disc on Utah Smith written by Lynn Abbott. He told me about the project and asked if I could photograph Smith’s grave in south Shreveport. I agreed.

About a year earlier, Andrew Brown introduced me to the recordings of Utah Smith and pointed out that he was born in Shreveport. Around the same time, I discovered a few 1940s-era newspaper articles about Smith published in a local newspaper, The Shreveport Sun. The request for me to visit the grave was the first time I heard that Smith was actually buried here.

I flipped open the phone book, located the number, and dialed. A woman answered “Carver Memorial Cemetery,” and I asked for the burial location of Utah Smith, who passed away in 1965. Having checked their files, she returned to the phone – “Section A, Lot 70, Grave 5.”

The next day, I visited the cemetery with a camera. After spending ten minutes hopelessly wandering the tombstones, I noticed a worker in the distance. Perhaps he could help. I drove to that end of the cemetery, parked next to a fresh pile of dirt, and explained my fruitless search. “That’s near the front entrance. Just meet me there in five minutes, and I’ll show you.” Back at the entrance, I walked behind the employee as he counted off the rows. “How can you tell where anything is?” I asked. “We have numbered metal markers in the ground, see...” He used his foot to kick aside a layer of dirt, leaves, and pine straw. Underneath lay a small piece of metal with etched numbers. After a short walk, the cemetery worker stopped and pointed to the ground. “Well, here it is.” That was my introduction to the unmarked grave of Rev. Utah Smith. I snapped a photo and sent it to Nutt. It appears at the end of the book.

Since that initial visit, I’ve wondered why Utah Smith’s grave didn’t have a headstone. The plot sits alongside many other graves with tombstones. Perhaps in 1965 there was a temporary marker that didn’t stand the test of time. I also wondered if the location was incorrect. About two years ago, I repeated the process from phone call to employee pointing at the ground. Once again, it ended with me staring at the same wide, grassy spot sandwiched between other tombstones. Maybe one day Utah Smith’s family and friends can coordinate the installation of a marker etched with two wings.

Rev. Utah Smith's grave at Carver Memorial Cemetery (Shreveport, Louisiana), April 2006


Since the publication of Abbott’s book in 2008, I’ve stumbled across a few additional pieces of the Utah Smith story.  Here they are:

"Hundreds Gather in Downpour to Watch Immersion of Converts," The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, PA), June 13, 1938, 2.  Thanks to Clive Holloway for sharing this citation.

Thelma Watson, "Natchez Catastrophe Blamed on Dancing, Saints Criticize," The Plaindealer (Kansas City, KS), May 3, 1940.

"Minister Makes Recordings of Revival Series," The Afro-American (Baltimore, MD), February 4, 1941.
The Billboard, June 17, 1944, 19.

The Billboard, January 18, 1947, 31.

The Billboard, March 15, 1952, 16.

The Billboard, August 22, 1953, 17.
Carver Memorial Cemetery (Shreveport, Louisiana) map, June 1952.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March 8, 2014: Unscene! A Tribute to Stan “The Record Man” Lewis

Lightnin' Hopkins - "Uncle Stan, the Hip Hit Record Man" 45 (Jewel 825, 1968/1972)

On Saturday, March 8, 2014, Shreveport will celebrate the achievements of Stan “The Record Man” Lewis. The day includes performances by musicians who recorded for the Jewel/Paula/Ronn record labels, panel discussions featuring Shreveport disc jockeys, and a public interview/Q & A with Stan Lewis.

The complete details are posted at the following link -- Shreveport Regional Arts Council (SRAC) “Unscene! A Tribute to Stan 'The Record Man' Lewis."

The Shreveport Songs blog encourages readers to check out our favorite songs listed below that Lewis had a hand in recording, writing, or releasing.  Internet searches reveal most are available online for listening.

In closing, two questions for readers:
  1. What's your favorite song connected to Stan Lewis?
  2. Anything you want us to ask Lewis this weekend during the interview?
A selection of songs recorded, written, or released by Stan Lewis:
  • Lowell Fulson - “Reconsider Baby” (Checker 804, 1954)
  • The Flamingos - “I’ll Be Home” (Checker 830, 1955)
  • Jimmy Lee and Wayne Walker - “Love Me” (Chess 4863, 1955)
  • Dale Hawkins - “Susie-Q” (Checker 863, 1957)
  • Gene Wyatt - "Lover Boy" (Ebb 123, 1957)
  • TV Slim and His Heartbreakers - “To Prove My Love” (Speed 6865, 1958)
  • Lucky Clark - “So Sick” (Chess 1782, 1961)
  • Bobby Charles - “Everybody’s Laughing” (Jewel 728, 1964)
  • Banny Price - “There Goes The Girl” (Jewel 733, 1964)
  • The Five Jets - “The Shake” (Jewel 739, 1964)
  • Carter Brothers - "Southern Country Boy" (Jewel 745, 1965)
  • Jerry McCain - “728 Texas (Where The Action Is)” (Jewel 753, 1965)
  • Tom & the Cats - “Wine Song” (Jewel 750, 1965)
  • The Uniques - “You Ain’t Tuff” (Paula, 231, 1966)
  • Peppermint Harris - “Wait Until It Happens To You” (Jewel 772, 1966)
  • In-Crowd - “Nothing You Do” (Ronn 1, 1966)
  • Curtis Griffin - “I Gotta Lump” (Jewel 755, 1966)
  • Frank Frost - My Back Scratcher (Jewel 765, 1966)
  • Lonnie and Floyd - “You Got To Feel It” (Jewel 781, 1967)
  • Nat Stuckey - “Paralyze My Mind” (Paula 243, 1966)
  • Toussaint McCall - “Nothing Takes The Place Of You” (Ronn 3, 1967)
  • Dumas King - “Loose Eel” (Ronn 4, 1967)
  • John Fred And His Playboy Band - “Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)” (Paula 282, 1967)
  • Lightnin’ Hopkins - “Uncle Stan, The Hip Hit Record Man” (Jewel 825, 1968/1972)
  • Bill Bush - “I’m Waiting” (Ronn 17, 1968)
  • Little Duck and the Quackers - “Excuse Me” (Ronn 19, 1968)
  • Bill Bohannon - “Shreveport, Louisiana” (Paula 292, 1968)
  • Stanley Winston - “No More Ghettos In America” (Jewel 149, 1970)
  • Ted Taylor - “Something Strange Is Going On In My House” (Ronn 44, 1970)
  • Louis Chacere - “The Hen” (Paula 321, 1970)
  • Gene Wyatt & Dawn Glass - “Go Together” (Paula 1224, 1970)
  • Five By Five - “15 Going On 20” (Paula 326, 1970)
  • Family Tree - “Electric Kangaroo” (Paula 329, 1970)
  • Rouge Show - “Make Me Over Again” (Paula 339, 1970)
  • Little Johnny Taylor - Everybody Knows About My Good Thing (Ronn 55, 1971)
  • Genies - “No News Is Bad News” (Ronn 56, 1971)
  • Bad Habits - “If The Whole World Stopped Loving” (Paula 342, 1971)
  • Albert Washington - “Loosen These Pains And Let Me Go” (Jewel 822, circa 1972)
  • Bobby Rush - “Bowlegged Woman/Knock-Kneed Man” (Jewel 834, 1972)
  • Bobby Patterson - “She Don't Have To See You (To See Through You)” (Paula 362, 1972)
  • Roscoe Robinson - “We're Losing It Baby” (Paula 378, 1972)
  • Violinaires - “The Upper Way” (Jewel 0053, 1972)
  • Fontella Bass - “Home Wrecker” (Paula 389, 1973)
  • Soul Stirrers - “I’m Trying To Be Your Friend” (Jewel 0084, 1973)
  • The Montclairs - “Hung Up On Your Love” (Paula 390, 1973)
  • Armstrong Brothers - “Can You Treat Him Like A Brother” (Jewel 216, 1973)
  • Rev. Brady L. Blade And Zion Baptist Church Choir - “Old Ship Of Zion” (Jewel 230, 1974)
  • The Relatives - "Walking On" (Lewis 2805, 1976)