Along with everything else, Hurricane Harvey took with it decades worth of files, maps, notes, coordinates, names and research I had on my external hard drive; so for the time being, this site will be on hiatus until I finish republishing. I will upload as I go, so each post will reappear on its original date and can be found in the Archive section in the right sidebar. If you need to contact me for any reason in the duration, my contact info is found in my profile. Wish me luck, guys. - JES

September 18, 2012

Weldon "Juke Boy" Bonner

   Weldon Philip H. (Juke Boy) Bonner, blues guitarist, vocalist, and harmonica player, was born in Bellville, Texas, on March 22, 1932, one of nine children of sharecroppers Emanuel and Carrie (Kessee) Bonner. His parents died when he was young, so he was raised by another family on a nearby farm. Bonner became interested in music when he was six and sang with a local spiritual group when he was in elementary school. By the time he was twelve he had taught himself to play the guitar. He quit school when he was a teenager and moved to Houston to find a job. When he was fifteen he won a talent contest held by Trummy Cain, a local talent coordinator. This led to an appearance on KLEE radio.

   For the next decade Bonner worked as a one-man band in lounges, bars, and clubs throughout the South and in California. He frequently worked in juke joints accompanied only by jukebox music; hence his nickname. In 1956 he cut his first record, Rock Me Baby, with Well Baby as the flip side, on Bob Geddins's Irma label. Bonner made his next record for Goldband Records in 1960 and continued to record for Liberty, Sonet, and other labels during the 1960s. In the late 1960s and early 1970s he toured Europe, where he recorded on the British Flyright and Storyville labels. His best work, however, came in the late 1960s on the Arhoolie label. Songs such as Going Back to the Country, Struggle Here in Houston, and Life Is a Nightmare reflected his impoverished youth and the dangers he had faced living in big cities. Bonner continued to tour, work local venues, and record. He was married in 1950 and was later divorced. He died in Houston on June 29, 1978, of cirrhosis of the liver. Five children survived him. Source

COORDINATES
29° 52.667, -095° 25.768


Restlawn Cemetery
Houston

August 14, 2012

Jiles Perry "The Big Bopper" Richardson

   The Big Bopper, disc jockey, songwriter, and singer, was born Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr., on October 24, 1930, in Sabine Pass, Texas. He was the son of Jiles Perry Richardson, Sr., and Elsie (Stalsby) Richardson. He usually went by the initials J. P. and briefly used the nickname Jape, before settling on the pseudonym, "The Big Bopper," on air and when recording. He is best-known for his hit, Chantilly Lace, which reached Number 6 on the charts in 1958, and for dying in a plane crash with Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly.

   His family moved to Beaumont when he was very young. At Beaumont High School he sang in the school choir as well as played on the football team. He graduated from Beaumont High School in 1947 and enrolled at Lamar College. While still a teenager Richardson began working as a disc jockey at KTRM radio in Beaumont, and he soon left college to work full-time. He eventually became program director while still working as a disc jockey. His colorful on-air personality (a stark contrast to the naturally shy Richardson) made him a very popular disc jockey in the Golden Triangle area.

   Richardson was influenced early by country singers but soon moved into the realm of rock-and-roll. In 1958 he traveled to Houston's Gold Star Studios to record songs for Pappy Daily's D Records. Richardson recorded his novelty song, Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor, as the A-side of a single that he hoped would capitalize on the popularity of other novelty songs that had recently been released. For the B-side he recorded Chantilly Lace, which he reportedly penned as an afterthought in the backseat of the car while driving to the session. At the recording session, he also reportedly formally adopted his nickname "The Big Bopper" as his musical persona.

   Unexpectedly, the record's B-side, Chantilly Lace, quickly gained the attention of radio programmers and listening audiences, and Daily released it on his D label and subsequently leased it to Mercury Records for national distribution. Chantilly Lace became very successful and would eventually go gold and multi-platinum as an early hit in rock-and-roll history. It was by far the most famous record on Daily's D label. Songs from the Gold Star sessions comprised Richardson's only album, Chantilly Lace.

   He followed with Little Red Riding Hood and Big Bopper's Wedding, which were also hits but not of the same caliber as Chantilly Lace. Richardson's song, White Lightning became the first Number 1 hit for George Jones in 1959. Later that year, his song Running Bear became a Number 1 hit for fellow Texan Johnny Preston.

   The Bopper wrote about thirty-eight songs during his life and recorded twenty-one of them. Most of his recordings were classified as novelty songs that did not have lasting popularity. His appeal was largely in his flamboyant stage performances. He wore checkered jackets and zoot suits and used a prop phone during Chantilly Lace to talk to his girl. In 1958 he also made a pioneering video for the hit song and later coined the term "music video" for the production. In order to maintain his showman image, he did not wear his wedding ring in public and generally kept his marriage to Adrianne "Teetsie" Fryou (married on April 18, 1952), a secret from his fans. The couple had two children.

   With his newfound fame, Richardson resigned his position as disc jockey at KTRM in Beaumont in order to perform full-time by November 1958. In this capacity, he appeared on the top pop shows of the day and was booked on the "Winter Dance Party" tour with Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. On February 2, 1959, Richardson, Holly, and Valens played a show at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. They were scheduled to play in North Dakota the next day. After the show Holly and Valens chartered a plane so that they could rest before their bands arrived. Richardson, who had the flu, was supposed to take the bus, but at the last minute switched places with Holly's band member, Waylon Jennings. The plane went down just after takeoff at about 1:00 A.M. in Mason County, Iowa, killing the pilot and all three musicians. Richardson was survived by his wife and a daughter and son. He was buried in Beaumont Cemetery.

   In the late 1980s the Port Arthur Historical Society commissioned sculptor Donald Clark to create a memorial to the musicians. The piece was initially displayed at a Fabulous Thunderbirds benefit concert on February 3, 1989, thirty years after the crash. The Big Bopper is an inductee in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and is honored in the Music Hall of Fame at the Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur. In 2004 he was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. The following year the Texas Historical Commission erected a marker in his honor. His body was reburied next to his wife in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Beaumont in 2007. In 2008 he was inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. His son Jay had a successful music career and billed himself as The Big Bopper, Jr. He died on August 21, 2013. Source

COORDINATES
30° 07.380, -094° 06.004

Tranquility Garden
Forest Lawn Memorial Park
Beaumont

May 22, 2012

Hardin Richard Runnels

   Hardin R. Runnels, governor and legislator, the son of Hardin D. and Martha "Patsy" Burch (Darden) Runnels, was born on August 30, 1820, in Mississippi. His father died in 1839, and in 1842 he moved with his mother, his three brothers, and his uncle Hiram G. Runnels to Texas. The family first settled on the Brazos River, but Runnels soon moved with his mother and brothers to Bowie County, where they established a cotton plantation on the Red River. From 1847 to 1855 he served as state representative in the Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth legislatures. He was speaker of the House during his final term. In 1855 he was elected lieutenant governor. During these years he acquired a reputation as a loyal member of the Democratic party and a staunch supporter of states' rights. He was the son of a prominent and wealthy family and also became a wealthy man in his own right. By 1860 his real and personal property was worth an estimated $85,000 and included thirty-nine slaves. In May 1857 the state Democratic party held its first convention at which a gubernatorial candidate was nominated. Leading Democrats, angered by Sam Houston's votes in the United States Senate and his seeming endorsement of the American (Know-Nothing) party in 1856, wished to prevent Houston's election as governor. Because of his support of Southern positions and his party loyalty, Runnels received the nomination on the eighth ballot. Shortly thereafter, Houston announced his candidacy as an independent Democrat, saying that the issues were "Houston and Anti-Houston." Runnels was a poor public speaker and made few appearances, but the party's candidate for lieutenant governor, Francis R. Lubbock, campaigned actively. Houston also campaigned vigorously, but had no party machinery and little support from Texas newspapers. Runnels won by a vote of 38,552 to 23,628 and thus became the only person ever to defeat Sam Houston in an election.

   During his term Runnels consistently supported Southern positions. He frequently asserted that Texas might be forced to secede from the Union, supported the unsuccessful effort to put the Texas legislature on record in favor of reopening the African slave trade, and signed into law a bill allowing free blacks to choose a master and become slaves. He also signed into law the bill that appropriated financial support to establish the University of Texas and the bill establishing the State Geological Survey. The most vexing problem Runnels faced during his term as governor was the problem of protecting frontier settlers against Indian depredations. The year he took office there was a marked upsurge in Indian attacks, generally by the Comanches. Although Runnels supported and signed into law bills that called for the raising of temporary ranger battalions to meet the emergency, he opposed efforts to form permanent battalions on the grounds that the state could not afford them and that the federal government was responsible for protecting the frontier. When angry settlers took matters in their own hands and retaliated against Indians on the Brazos Indian Reservation, they clashed with the army. Runnels's efforts to make peace failed. In 1859 the state Democratic convention renominated Runnels, and Houston again declared himself a candidate. This time however, Houston's key issues were his record of service to the state, particularly at the battle of San Jacinto, and Runnels's record as governor. Houston made particularly effective use of the problems on the frontier and the African slave-trade issue. The Democratic party attempted to blunt the criticism on the slave-trade matter by remaining silent on the controversy in their platform, but they were largely unsuccessful. The combination of Runnels's mediocre record as governor and Houston's personal popularity resulted in a reversal of the 1857 results, and Houston defeated Runnels by a vote of 36,227 to 27,500.

   Runnels subsequently retired to his plantation in Bowie County but remained active in the Democratic party. He was a member of the Secession Convention in 1861, where he was a vigorous supporter of the secession resolution. After the Civil War, although he had not yet received a pardon from the president, he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1866. At this convention he was one of about eleven delegates who were often termed the "aggressive secessionists" or the "irreconcilables." Although this group nominated him for convention president, he was not elected, and his extreme reluctance to seek or endorse workable compromises negated any influence he might have had on the convention's deliberations. In the 1850s Runnels built an impressive Greek Revival mansion near Old Boston and furnished it in anticipation of his approaching marriage. For some reason the wedding never took place, and he remained a bachelor for the rest of his life. When the Texas Historical Society was organized in Houston on May 23, 1870, Runnels was elected one of its vice presidents. He was also a member of St. John's Masonic Lodge. He died on December 25, 1873, and was buried in the Runnels family cemetery in Bowie County. In 1929 his remains were exhumed and reinterred in the State Cemetery at Austin, where a monument was installed at his new grave. Source

COORDINATES
30° 15.933, -097° 43.639

Republic Hill
Texas State Cemetery
Austin

March 27, 2012

Branch Tanner Archer

   Branch Tanner Archer, legislator and secretary of war of the Republic of Texas, son of Maj. Peter Field and Francis (Tanner) Archer, was born in Fauquier County, Virginia, on December 13, 1790. Peter Archer was a Revolutionary War officer. Branch Archer attended William and Mary College at Williamsburg in 1804, and in 1808 he received his M.D. degree from the medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. After returning to Virginia he practiced medicine, served one or two terms in the Virginia legislature (1819-20), and was a presidential elector in 1820. On May 13, 1828, Archer killed his cousin, Dr. James Ottway Crump, in a duel fought with pistols near Scottsville, Powhatan County, Virginia.

   Archer arrived in Texas in 1831 and quickly joined a group in Brazoria agitating for independence from Mexico. He represented Brazoria at the Convention of 1833 and participated in the battle of Gonzales in October 1835. In November 1835 he traveled to San Felipe as representative of Brazoria and there was elected chairman of the Consultation. He urged the members to disregard previous factional divisions and concentrate on what was the best course for Texas. Although he favored independence, he voted with the majority, who favored a return to the Constitution of 1824.

   The Consultation then selected Archer to join Stephen F. Austin and William H. Wharton as commissioners to the United States to lobby for financial assistance, collect supplies, and recruit men for the Texas cause. The three arrived in New Orleans in January 1836 and negotiated a series of loans that totaled $250,000. Then they proceeded up the Mississippi River, making numerous speeches before turning east for Washington, D.C. During their trip Texas declared its independence, on March 2, 1836. The three commissioners were unable to persuade Congress to support their cause and returned home.

   After arriving in Texas Archer worked for the election of Austin as president of the young republic. He also served in the First Congress of Texas and as speaker of the House during its second session. In Congress he and James Collinsworth sponsored a law establishing the Texas Railroad, Navigation, and Banking Company. Subsequently, Archer served as President Mirabeau B. Lamar's secretary of war until 1842.

   Archer married Eloisa Clarke on January 20, 1813. They had six children. He was a Mason and helped organize a Masonic lodge in Brazoria. He was grand master of the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas in 1838-39. Archer continued to be an active political force until his death. He died on September 22, 1856, at Brazoria and was buried at Eagle Island Plantation on Oyster Creek in Brazoria County. Archer County was named in his honor. Source

COORDINATES
29° 01.304, -095° 25.071

Wharton Lawn Crypt Garden
Restwood Memorial Park
Clute

February 28, 2012

Nimrod Lindsay Norton

   Nimrod Lindsay Norton, government official, was born near Carlisle, Nicholas County, Kentucky, on April 18, 1830, the son of Hiram and Nancy (Spencer) Norton. He was educated at Fredonia Military Academy in New York and Kentucky Military Institute. On October 27, 1853, he was married to Mary C. Hall in Nicholas County; they had eight children. The family moved to Missouri, where he farmed. At the beginning of the Civil War Norton organized one of the first companies north of the Missouri River for the defense against federal troops. In May 1864 he was chosen as one of the Missouri representatives in the Confederate States Congress. After the war he returned to Missouri. In 1867 he and his family moved to DeWitt County, Texas, then to Salado, in Bell County, where in 1873 Norton was a charter member of the Grange, an agrarian order that powerfully influenced the Constitutional Convention of 1875.

   A section of the Constitution of 1876 provided for the designation, survey, and sale of 3,050,000 acres of public land in the High Plains to pay for the construction of a new Capitol. Governor Oran Milo Roberts selected Norton as commissioner to supervise the survey of that land for the state in July 1879. With surveyors and a ranger escort, Norton made the necessary land surveys, which opened the Llano Estacado to settlement. In his diary (from August to December 1879) and in his letters to Governor Roberts, Norton described the country, the daily camp life, and the flora and fauna that the survey party encountered. In 1880 he was appointed a member of the three-man Capitol building commission, which considered eleven designs submitted for the Capitol, made a survey of various quarries in the Austin area, and studied qualities of various building materials. On February 1, 1882, Norton and another Capitol building commissioner, Joseph Lee, shoveled the first spade of dirt for the beginning of construction. Norton with his two business partners, W. H. Westfall and G. W. Lacy, ended the limestone-granite controversy by donating all the red granite needed for construction from Granite Mountain in Burnet County.

   Although Norton had purchased land in the Montopolis area in 1872 and journeyed to Austin to supervise the annual Travis County fairs, he continued to live in Salado. He and his family were living in Austin later, however, and in 1893 he built a large home north of the site of the present Travis County Courthouse. He died on September 28, 1903, in Austin and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery there. Source

COORDINATES
30° 16.605, -097° 43.587

Section 3
Oakwood Cemetery
Austin

February 21, 2012

"Blind" Lemon Jefferson

   Blind Lemon Jefferson, a seminal blues guitarist and songster, was born on a farm in Couchman, near Wortham, Freestone County, Texas, in the mid-1890s. Sources differ as to the exact birth date. Census records indicate that he was born on September 24, 1893, while apparently Jefferson himself wrote the date of October 26, 1894, on his World War I draft registration. He was the son of Alec and Clarissy Banks Jefferson. His parents were sharecroppers. There are numerous contradictory accounts of where Lemon lived, performed, and died, complicated further by the lack of photographic documentation; to date, only two photographs of him have been identified, and even these are misleading. The cause of his blindness isn't known, nor whether he had some sight.

   Little is known about Jefferson's early life. He must have heard songsters and bluesmen, like Henry "Ragtime Texas" Thomas and "Texas" Alexander. Both Thomas and Alexander traveled around East Texas and performed a variety of blues and dance tunes. Clearly, Jefferson was an heir to the blues songster tradition, though the specifics of his musical training are vague. Legends of his prowess as a bluesman abound among the musicians who heard him, and sightings of Jefferson in different places around the country are plentiful.

   By his teens, he began spending time in Dallas. About 1912 he started performing in the Deep Ellum and Central Track areas of Dallas, where he met Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, one of the most legendary musical figures to travel and live in Texas. In interviews he gave in the 1940s, Lead Belly gave various dates for his initial meeting with Jefferson, sometimes placing it as early as 1904. But he mentioned 1912 most consistently, and that seems plausible. Jefferson would then have been eighteen or nineteen years old. The two became musical partners in Dallas and the outlying areas of East Texas. Lead Belly learned much about the blues from Blind Lemon, and he had plenty to contribute as a musician and a showman.

   Though Jefferson was known to perform almost daily at the corner of Elm Street and Central Avenue in Dallas, there is no evidence that he ever lived in the city. The 1920 census shows him living in Freestone County with an older half-brother, Nit C. Banks, and his family. Jefferson's occupation is listed as "musician" and his employer as "general public." Sometime after 1920, Jefferson met Roberta Ransom, who was ten years his senior. They married in 1927, the year that Ransom's son by a previous marriage, Theaul Howard, died. Howard's son, also named Theaul, remained in the area and retired in nearby Ferris, Texas.

   In 1925 Jefferson was discovered by a Paramount recording scout and taken to Chicago to make records. Though he was not the first folk (or "country") blues singer-guitarist, or the first to make commercial recordings, Jefferson was the first to attain a national audience. His extremely successful recording career began in 1926 and continued until 1929. He recorded 110 sides (including all alternate takes), of which seven were not issued and six are not yet available in any format. In addition to blues, he recorded two spiritual songs, I Want to be Like Jesus in My Heart and All I Want is That Pure Religion, released under the pseudonym Deacon L. J. Bates. Overall, Jefferson's recordings display an extraordinary virtuosity. His compositions are rooted in tradition, but are innovative in his guitar solos, his two-octave vocal range, and the complexity of his lyrics, which are at once ironic, humorous, sad, and poignant.

   Jefferson's approach to creating his blues varied. Some of his songs use essentially the same melodic and guitar parts. Others contain virtually no repetition. Some are highly rhythmic and related to different dances, the names of which he called out at times between or in the middle of stanzas. He made extensive use of single-note runs, often apparently picked with his thumb, and he played in a variety of keys and tunings.

   Jefferson is widely recognized as a profound influence upon the development of the Texas blues tradition and the growth of American popular music. His significance has been acknowledged by blues, jazz, and rock musicians, from Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, and T-Bone Walker to Bessie Smith, Bix Beiderbecke, Louis Armstrong, Carl Perkins, Jefferson Airplane, and the Beatles. In the 1970s, Jefferson was parodied as "Blind Mellow Jelly" by Redd Foxx in his popular Sanford and Son television series, and by the 1990s there was a popular alternative rock band called Blind Melon. A caricature of Blind Lemon appears on the inside of a Swedish blues magazine, called Jefferson. He appears in the same characteristic pose as his publicity photo, but instead of wearing a suit and tie, he is depicted in a Hawaiian-style shirt. In each issue, the editors put new words in the singer's mouth: "Can I change my shirt now? Is the world ready for me yet?" Alan Govenar and Akin Babatunde have composed a musical, Blind Lemon: Prince of Country Blues, staged at the Majestic Theatre, Dallas (1999), and the Addison WaterTower Theatre (2001), and have also developed a touring musical revue, entitled Blind Lemon Blues.

   Jefferson died in Chicago on December 22, 1929, and was buried in the Wortham Negro Cemetery. His grave was unmarked until 1967, when a Texas Historical Marker was dedicated to him. Musicologist Alan Lomax and Mance Lipscomb were among those in attendance at the dedication ceremony. Jefferson was inducted in the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame in 1980. In 1997 the town of Wortham began a blues festival named for the singer, and a new granite headstone was placed at his gravesite. The inscription included lyrics from one of the bluesman's songs: "Lord, it's one kind favor I'll ask of you. See that my grave is kept clean." In 2007 the name of the cemetery was changed to Blind Lemon Memorial Cemetery. Among Jefferson's most well-known songs are Matchbox Blues, See That My Grave Is Kept Clean, That Black Snake Moan, Mosquito Blues, One Dime Blues, Tin Cup Blues, Hangman's Blues, 'Lectric Chair Blues, and Black Horse Blues. All of Blind Lemon Jefferson's recordings have been reissued by Document Records. Source

COORDINATES
31° 47.863, -096° 27.804


Blind Lemon Memorial Cemetery
Wortham