Delta Music Museum

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Created on August 1, 2008.

The Delta Music Museum is a museum in Ferriday in Concordia Parish in eastern Louisiana, which offers exhibits on rock and roll and blues musicians from the Mississippi River delta country. The museum opened with a grant from the State of Louisiana and is staffed by local volunteers. There is no admission charge; the facility relies on the sales of souvenirs. Visitors from all over the United States have signed the guestbook since the museum opened in the spring of 2002. A scaled-down version of the museum, called simply the Ferriday Museum, had begun operational at another location from 1995 to 2002.​

There are also exhibits on two well-known former Ferriday personalities not affiliated with the music industry: former CBS and ABC commentator Howard K. Smith (1914–2002) and Ann Boyar Warner (1908–1990), second wife of Warner Brothers studio mogul Jack L. Warner (1892-1978). There is a mural drawn in 1991 presented by Monterey High School in Concordia Parish.[1]

The first exhibit one encounters in the museum is a sculpture of the three Ferriday cousins at the piano: singers Mickey Gilley of Branson, Missouri, Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart, the last an evangelist based in Baton Rouge. Other honorees are blues trombonist Leon "Pee Wee" Whittaker, a native of Newellton in northern Tensas Parish.[2]

Other museum inductees

  • Former Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis, Jackson Parish native, produced "You Are My Sunshine," formerly among the most recognized songs in the world.​
  • Conway Twitty, a native of Friars Point, Mississippi, had fifty-five No. 1 hits in the nation, a record unsurpassed by The Beatles, Elvis Presley, and Frank Sinatra.​
  • Aaron Neville (born 1941) is a popular Christian and jazz performer from New Orleans.​
  • Allen "Puddler" Harris, a native of Jigger in Franklin Parish and a resident of Lake Charles, was a member of the original Ricky Nelson and the last Jimmie Davis bands.​
  • Percy Sledge (1940-2015), a native of Leighton, Alabama, resided in Baton Rouge and produced the international hit, "When a Man Loves a Woman."​
  • Johnny Horton (1925–1960), a Texas native affiliated with the defunct Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, is best remembered for North to Alaska and The Battle of New Orleans" song.​
  • Irma Thomas (born 1941), the "Queen of Soul" from Ponchatoula in Tangipahoa Parish, has been dubbed the truest female representation of New Orleans music​
  • Clarence "Frogman" Henry (born 1937), was said to be able to sing like "a frog," hence his nickman; he traveled for a time with The Beatles.​
  • Fats Dominospoke French before he did English and is remembered particularly for Ain't That A Shame, Blueberry Hill," and "Walking to New Orleans]." He was a celebrity victim of Hurricane Katrina.​
  • John Fred Gourrier (1941–2005) formed John Fred and the Playboys and later produced records for other singers, including Irma Thomas.​
  • The Hemphills: eight-time winning GMA Dove Award winners. Led by husband and wife team of Joel Hemphill, Sr. (born 1939), and LaBreeza Rogers Hemphill (1940-2015). Inducted to the hall of fame in 2011.​
  • Dale Houston (1940–2007) and his singing partner Grace Broussard (born 1939), hit the charts with I'm Leaving It All Up to You. He was a native of Seminary, Mississippi, who grew up in Baton Rouge and lived briefly in Ferriday in 1963.​
  • Pete Fountain (1930-2016), a clarinetist, became one of the principal names in New Orleans jazz and was a regular on ABC's The Lawrence Welk Show.[2]

Arcade Theatre

In 2001, then state Representative Bryant Hammett of Ferriday secured legislation to bring the museum under the jurisdiction of the Louisiana secretary of state, then Walter Fox McKeithen (1946-2005, a son of former Governor John J. McKeithen. The museum has been actively promoted by former Secretary of State Jay Dardenne] who secured state funding and regularly appears at the annual Delta Music Festival. The museum is located at 218 Louisiana Avenue, the main street of downtown Ferriday. The museum building was the former post office, built in 1939. It contains the inscription of James Aloysius "Jim" Farley (1888-1976) of New York, the Postmaster General at the time. The museum is across the street from a Ferriday Garden Club green space and is adjacent to the restored Arcade Theatre.​

The original Arcade was built in the latter 1920s, burned in the 1950s and was permanently closed in the 1970s. On March 12, 2008, Dardenne presided at the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Arcade, along with Mickey Gilley and one of Dardenne's predecessors, former Secretary of State and Insurance Commissioner James H. "Jim" Brown, a Ferriday native. That night Dardenne and Gilley joined the group Easy Eddie and the Party Rockers in the maiden performance in the new Arcade. The rebuilt Arcade, which cost $1 million, was funded by Dardenne's office. Prior to the restoration, the building had been a pawn shop. The sign at the Arcade is a replica of the original.[3]

Bobby Jones (born ca. 1927) of Ferriday recalled having swept the Arcade for $1 a day. A graduate andfootball player at nearby Ferriday High School, Jones also recalls five-cent popcorn and nine-cent movie admission. "Those were the days. Nothing was real expensive. I always had money in my pocket," Jones reminisced for the Concordia Sentinel.[4]

Gaye Clark of Vidalia, the Concordia Parish seat of government, said that she worked at the Arcade as a cashier in 1954. "I have so many memories of the Arcade . . . Working there and being given the responsibility of being cashier gave me a work ethic that has stayed with me my entire life . . . ," Clark added.[5]​ Dan Ratcliff of Natchez recalls that each year the Arcade had three free movie days prior to Christmas. "Each showing was packed, and I remember they mostly showedElvis Presley or Jerry Lewis or Dean Martin films.[6]

Museum weathers the threat of closure

Under the 2012–2013 budget proposed by then Governor Bobby Jindal, the Delta Music Museum was slated for potential closure. Budget constraints have already reduced the museum hours of operation making it difficult to meet the needs of tourists. In a meeting with the state House Appropriations Committee in March 2012, then Secretary of State Tom Schedler outlined the situation regarding the seventeen museums funded through his office. Schedler, who is seeking a way to keep the facilities open, noted that most of the museums are operated by volunteers and part-time workers.[7]

As of January 2020, the museum is still operational under the jurisdiction of current Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin. Its hours are ​Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Group tours with reservations are given on Mondays and Tuesdays.[8]

References

  1. Exhibits, Delta Music Museum, Ferriday, Louisiana
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Delta Music Museum Celebrities" brochure, Delta Music Museum, 6 pages.
  3. "Arcade Theatre returns to downtown," Concordia Sentinel, April 2, 2008, p. 5.
  4. "Memories: Bobby Jones, Ferriday,” Concordia Sentinel, April 2, 2008, p. 6.
  5. "Memories: Gaye Clark, Vidalia,” Concordia Sentinel, April 2, 2008, p. 6.
  6. "Memories: Dan Ratcliff, Natchez", Concordia Sentinel, April 2, 2008, p. 7.
  7. La. budget plan could close museums in Tioga, Ferriday. The Alexandria Town Talk. Retrieved on March 12, 2012.
  8. About Us. Deltamusicmuseum.com. Retrieved on January 11, 2020.

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