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Mississippi John HurtHis Life, His Times, His Blues$

Philip R. Ratcliffe

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9781617030086

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617030086.001.0001

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. The Legacies of Mississippi John Hurt

. The Legacies of Mississippi John Hurt

(p.204) 5. The Legacies of Mississippi John Hurt
Mississippi John Hurt

Philip R. Ratcliffe

University Press of Mississippi

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes events following Mississippi John Hurt's death in 1966. These include Hurt's second wife Jessie's receipt of royalty checks from Vanguard and Tom Hoskins in late 1968; Hoskins' efforts to boost the recognition and sales of Hurt's music; Jessie's death on July 20, 1982; the death of Tom Hoskins on January 27, 2002; the establishment of the Mississippi John Hurt Blues Foundation in 1999; and tributes to Mississippi John Hurt.

Keywords:   African American musicians, black musicians, Tom Hoskins, Mississippi John Hurt, Blues Foundation


Jessie had loved John deeply and they had rarely been apart. Now she found herself left with young Ella Mae and Andrew in Grenada. Without a will, what was left of the $2,542.18 in John’s account at the Grenada Bank, once funeral costs had been paid, was to go to Jessie and Man.1 What could be more straightforward? The judgment was based on the facts known to the court and provided to them by Jessie and her advisors, which included Tom Hoskins. But it was anything but straight-forward, and more than twenty-five years later, this judgment was to be challenged in the same Grenada court. In the intervening period Tom Hoskins attempted to get on with making a living, partly from his Music Research Inc. contract with Mississippi John Hurt, and to ensuring that Jessie and the grandchildren got what was rightfully theirs, including their share of the royalties on John’s music.

A month after John’s death, on December 4, 1966, Jessie wrote a very businesslike letter to her attorney. She told him that she had heard from Dick Waterman who said that he had been to New York and met with Maynard Solomon of Vanguard Records and Herb Gart, a colleague of Tom Hoskins and John’s business manager, and that they had decided to put money into a fund for Jessie and the grandchildren with an intention to pay them an allowance of $200.00 a month. She added that Dick Waterman (in a letter to Jessie of November 26, 1966) had said that they would send her the $700.00 to cover the funeral expenses.2 A week later on December 11, she wrote anxiously to Maynard Solomon saying that she and the kids were living on social security and asking if he would send her the money that he was holding, adding, “John as gone and I Feels at a lost to see to his business.”3

(p.205) That Christmas, Jessie received Christmas presents from Tom Hoskins, including a picture of John, and on December 30 she replied:4

Hello Tommy ok I hope the kids and me ar fine we received the package to day it sure was a surprise to us brother (an affectionate name for grandson Andrew) was just ready to try his glove and ball out I told him nope because it would land right in the river Ella Mae she is hurrying for school to begin so she can wear her pretty sweater They ate the santa candy as soon as they open it they are so proud over everything you sent and me to. and this wonderful book I just had to hold back a few tears when I saw John’s picture every one that came in had to look through it will take it down and Let his Brothers see it

Many thanks to you for the gifts wish that you could have taken Xmas with us but as it was we did my baking here and we gone down to John brother hardy xmas. eve, John he was not here last xmas. so this xmas. he is resting from worry and Labor it is very lonely here with out him

My Love

Jessie &, the childrens

On January 17, 1967, Jessie had still heard nothing from Vanguard or anyone else about the money she had been told she would receive. She again wrote to Maynard Solomon asking if he would send some money.5

Dear Mr Solomon,

please except my asking about the estate settlement of my husband John S Hurt, John passed Nov.2nd 1966 and I were hoping by now that I would be getting some of his money as I was informed that Vanguard ar holding $1,300 for John right now and was going to send me down the $700 for the funeral I do not have any money only my social security once per month. I am not worrying about anyone being dishonest with the money I am worried about my condition. I have not received any of John’s money so far please let me no about it

Oblige in advance

Jessie L. hurt

She was clearly becoming a little desperate, but retained her dignity and composure, clearly not wishing to accuse anyone of short-changing her. She sent copies of her letters to Vanguard to Tom Hoskins and on the top of this particular copy Tom had written the words “follow up.” Whether he did take any action is not known, but Tom received another (p.206) copy of a letter that Jessie had sent to Vanguard on February 9, 1967, thanking them for sending some records of John’s and copies of some magazines, presumably containing articles about John.6 She added, “I tried to play one but it is just to much for me to listen to right now it seem just like he were sitting here in the room I just could not stand to listen had to cut it of.”

Given that Vanguard sent records and magazines to Jessie, it is tempting to assume that they were sent along with the payment owed, but strangely, Jessie did not mention money at all in her reply. In fact, they had not sent any money; Jessie wrote again to Maynard Solomon on May 15, 1967, almost six months after Dick Waterman had informed her that she would be receiving payment from Vanguard.7

Repeating much of what she had previously asked, she added, “I hope and trust in the Lord that you all will be honest with me as I have utmost confidence in you all I will preshate you sending me down the amount you ready have as I am in need please sir let me hear from you[.]”

Remarkably, after so long and in such desperation, Jessie still retained her dignity and composure in spite of being ignored and possibly cheated by people who were in a position to help her and who professed to be her friends. On July 25, 1967, Jessie was still chasing Maynard Solomon for payment.8 I could find no evidence that she actually received anything until considerably later. Of course the details of intended payment by Vanguard could have been misconstrued during communication between Maynard Solomon, Dick Waterman, and Jessie, but the fact remains that, at best, Vanguard did not communicate effectively with Jessie.

By late 1967 Tom Hoskins was sharing his life with a girl named Ricky. On November 11, Jessie wrote to Ricky and Tom Hoskins.9 She was clearly very moved by a letter, with a check included, that she had received from them.

Dear Miss. Ricky and Mr. Hoskins I Received your letter oh how glad was I For such a sweet, sweet, Letter it came in a time of need oh yes I remember you well. It is not a day that I do not think about those by gone day when we lived in Washington and I miss. all of you very much thanks you both for the check I thank you so much For your offer and being concerned about the childrens and me. John as gone to never return to me in this life I am living in hope that he and me will meet in a home where we’ll never grow old The kids ar doing fine in school

My Love to you both

Jessie L. hurt

(p.207) The house on North Levee Street was in a poor state, and within a month, Jessie moved into a house at 863 Telegraph Street, Grenada.10 Time rolled by with Jessie struggling to keep a home together for her and the two grandchildren. On April 24, 1968, she wrote to Goldstein, her lawyer, saying that she had received his letter, but that she had not heard from Bill Givens or anyone else.11

On October 7, she wrote again to Goldstein mentioning a letter she had received from Hoskins and saying that she had written to Tom Hoskins asking if he would send her some money and adding:

John had been pass ten months before I had heard from Mr. Hoskins he came down to grenada the next week after I had buried John and gave me a check for $100.00 after I asked for it. Then he told me that he would take care of things for me. Also this past Jan. 28, I got a letter saying that he had a little bit of money that he put into a fund for the children and me and would like to send a check once a month he said this money comes from the reissuing of a John Hurt record out in California he said that it will sell beautifully and that the money would all be mine whatever he get, he also said that it were about a couple of hundred in the fund and expect another check soon said he did not know exactly when as far as exactly how much he said that it should be another couple of hundred

he said maybe about $60.00 or $45.00 once a month would keep me with money and the bank with money. He asked me to write and let him know how much I would like to have so I wrote and told him that I agreed to $45.00 per month

So I have not heard any more about the fund money or the [indecipherable] Money I sure appreciate you helping me

Jessie finished by providing Tom Hoskins’s new address, c/o Mr. (Robert) Scherl in Silver Spring, Maryland, and signing herself, “Yours truly Jessie L Hurt.”12

A photocopy of the final page of a letter and the envelope sent from Tom Hoskins to Jessie was found amongst other papers, but unfortunately the letter is undated and the postmark of the letter indecipherable. However, given the content relative to other correspondence, it was probably sent between November and December of 1968. The letter was sent by special delivery and apparently contained a check for $60. Tom Hoskins wrote apologetically: (p.208)

“… but things have not gone to well with me & I really wanted to have some good news for you before I wrote, but of course, I really have no excuse at all.

However, here’s $60 to tide you over until I can get some more together as I told you on the phone, I will be sending you $240 in the next few weeks, and I will see what I can do as far as arranging for other money for you and try to set up a regular income that you can count on, like maybe getting Vanguard to pay you every 2 or [so] months instead of every six months.13

These are the things I should have done a long time ago but I promise I’ll take care of them now.

Please take good care of yourself and the kids, and send me a letter and tell me whats happening. I’ll answer every letter.

Love to you, Ella Mae & Brother,


The money that Jessie was expecting to receive was to come from the original 1963 and 1964 Piedmont releases and the Vanguard releases, Mississippi John Hurt Today in 1966 and The Immortal Mississippi John Hurt in 1967. Jessie and Tom Hoskins were not the only people chasing Vanguard for payment. Peter Kuykendall of Wynwood Music Company and Recording Studio had acquired publishing rights to virtually all of John’s songs from MRI as payment for his role in the recording of the Piedmont records. The agreement gave Wynwood Music 50 percent of royalties with 50 percent going to MRI. On November 11, 1968, Kuykendall wrote to Maynard Solomon concerning Vanguard’s nonpayment with respect to mechanical royalties on six of the tracks recorded on The Immortal Mississippi John Hurt.

Kuykendall, who had been instructed by MRI to send their share of the royalties directly to Jessie, emphasized that he needed to let Jessie know what was happening and stated his intention to pass the matter to his attorney if the matter was not resolved.15 On July 17, 1969, Peter Kuykendall wrote to MRI clearly describing the royalties that he had paid to Jessie from the Origin Jazz Library (OJL) releases over the previous year; $143.36 for six months to June 30, 1968, $49.07 for six months to December 31, 1968 and $45.34 for six months to June 30, 1969. He also stated that he had sent royalties from the Vanguard releases to Jessie.16

Although it is impossible to obtain an accurate calculation of the money being generated by all record sales up to this time, it seems clear that although it was not a huge amount, it was sufficient to make a significant difference in the lifestyle of Jessie, Ella Mae, and Andrew had it been (p.209)

. The Legacies of Mississippi John Hurt

Figure 5.1. Easter card from Jessie Hurt to Tom Hoskins, March 31, 1969.

(Tom Hoskins Archive.)

available to them. In any case, the money generated one way or another was about to escalate.

It seems that from around late 1968, after a two-year struggle, Jessie began to receive checks from Vanguard and from Tom Hoskins. Presumably Wynwood Music Co. was passing the Vanguard royalties on to Jessie after taking their own cut and Hoskins was passing royalties from the Piedmont records directly to Jessie. On December 6, 1968, Jessie wrote to Ricky and Tommy saying that their telephone call had “lifted her.” She was clearly distressed with Brother (Andrew) having been confined to his bed with a bad cold or flu.17 She kept him in the house as he recovered and reported that “Ella Mae is now catching it.” The weather was cold and wet. She had received checks from Music Research Inc. dated October 4, and December 2, and she enquired whether the check covered one or two months.18

Tom was still with Ricky in March 1969, and he was clearly still taking care, at least intermittently, of Jessie, Ella Mae, and Brother. He continued to do so for many more years to come. On March 31 Jessie sent an Easter greeting card to Ricky and Tommy with a message saying that she was due to receive checks on the first of the month (see Fig. 5.1).19 She thanked them for Ella Mae’s Christmas present of a new dress and (p.210) reported the death of John’s brother Hennis, who died on February 9, 1969, saying, “it is just one now living,” presumably referring to Hardy, the remaining sibling of John’s who died two years later on February 1, 1971, aged 89 years.20

Between 1969 and 1971 Jessie moved from Telegraph Street to an apartment at Washington Gardens, an apartment complex that reflected a new social initiative in Grenada County. It had limited space and was created to cater for those on low income. Jessie’s income was clearly sparse at that time, suggesting that she was receiving little money from anyone. She remained friendly with Ms. Kitty, who had helped her and John find the house on North Levee Street. In early 1971 Tom Hoskins advised Jessie about leaving a will to look after the grandchildren, and on May 8, 1971, she wrote to him from Washington Gardens.

Dear Mr Hoskins

please excuse me for so long about writing Very glad to get a letter from you as you asked about having a will made out to Brother and Ella Mae that is what I should have did Long before now and to will this prevent royalties being sent to us? as you spoke about my son you may include him with a small amount I want Brother and Ella Mae to have a Legal right of John money the biggest part and about the money I have in the bank is very small I am very careful about spending as the childrens Grow older it takes more I keeps our insurance paid I pay $51.0 for rent water heat and light that include in the rent I pay My phone bill some time it be as much as $12.00 Clothes some time. high price food a week The cheopist of food down here ar high I do not spend any more than I hofter I just can not afford it becouse everything is on me. You may send the will on down as soon as you can oh yes as you said about the children going to camp just don’t bother about it because you has been very nice we ar having plenty of rain I tried to get you twice on the phone I sure miss Ricky she were such a nice person very nice

Yours truly


But they did go to camp, as evidenced by a further letter from Jessie on January 4, 1972, in which she adds that she is now in a nice warm house.

The January 4 letter22 indicated that Tom Hoskins had again sent gifts for Jessie and the grandchildren. It appears that he also asked Jessie about making a will to benefit Ella Mae and Andrew, because she responds by saying that she had not heard from Hoskins since last April (p.211) and understood that he was drafting a will: “… you promise me that you would send a will to me for me to see and for me to take it to a Grenada lawyer and have him look at it and explain it to me.”

Tom Hoskins clearly took seriously his moral obligation to look after Jessie’s interests, as evidenced by the letters sent to him by Jessie and recovered from his possessions following his death in 2002. Although his contact with her appears to have been somewhat sporadic, Tom did help get a will organized. Jessie did leave a will.

Vanguard Records

In 1965, in an attempt to gain more exposure and sales for John’s music and establish him as a major artist, Music Research Inc. instructed Herb Gart to act on its behalf in negotiating a contract with a major record company. Subsequently, Gart was authorized by Tom Hoskins to enter into a two-record contract with the Vanguard Record Company. This agreement resulted in the New York sessions in 1966 that were directed and produced by Maynard Solomon and Pat Sky (see ch. 4).

Although Vanguard had been contracted to produce and release only two albums,23 they subsequently released a third LP, claiming that Herb Gart had authorized this and that Vanguard had gained rights to release more of Hurt’s music. Robert Scherl produced this third album from recordings of the Oberlin concert in 1966. Vanguard later released a fourth album, Mississippi John Hurt Last Sessions, from the studio material they had recorded in New York in 1966 (see Table 5.1). All studio recordings were later reissued as Mississippi John Hurt: The Complete Studio Recordings.

Table 5.1. Vanguard Records releases by Mississippi John Hurt 1966–72.


Record Number

Recording Location and Date

Release Date

Mississippi John Hurt Today

VSD 79220

Manhattan Towers Hotel, New York, February 1966


The Immortal Mississippi John Hurt

VSD 79248

Manhattan Towers Hotel, New York, February 1966


The Best of Mississippi John Hurt

VSD 19/20

Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, April 15, 1966


Mississippi John Hurt Last Sessions

VSD 79327

Manhattan Towers Hotel, February 1966 and Vanguard Studios, New York, July 1966


(p.212) Vanguard and Adelphi Records

In 1969 or 1970 Hoskins discussed an agreement with Gene Rosenthal of Adelphi Records about releasing a “definitive Mississippi John Hurt album”; a double LP with extensive notes, photographs, background material, etc., to be called Memorial Anthology. The material for this had been recorded primarily at the Ontario Place in 1964 by Rosenthal and was to include a recorded interview of John talking to Pete Seeger. Adelphi paid a $700 advance to MRI and a contract was drawn up on June 8, 1970.24

In addition to the Ontario Place recordings, Rosenthal was considering using recordings of Mississippi John Hurt performances made at the Retort Coffeehouse in Detroit in 1964 for Memorial Anthology. On September 10, 1970, he wrote to W. Wright Gedge, the owner of the Wright Gedge Stereo Recording Company, Gross Pointe, Michigan, who had made the recordings, asking permission.25 Gedge replied in the affirmative, saying that he had sent off the required master tapes under separate cover.26 According to the credits on the released Memorial Anthology, these Detroit recordings were not used, although some tracks recorded at the Blues House in Washington were added to those recorded at the Ontario Place. Presumably the Detroit recordings, and possibly other recordings of John’s performances, still exist.

However, the plans for a Memorial Anthology were about to be thwarted. The unauthorized release of the third and fourth Vanguard albums in 1971 and 1972 was considered by Rosenthal to seriously jeopardize the potential success of his planned Memorial Anthology. He delayed work on the project and accused Tom Hoskins of agreeing to the Vanguard releases without telling him. He claimed that the Vanguard releases interfered with his contract with MRI and that they would damage potential sales of Memorial Anthology. Tom Hoskins informed Rosenthal that the third and fourth releases by Vanguard in 1971 and 1972 were unauthorized and not part of his MRI contract with Vanguard. Presumably he was aware that the Oberlin concert had been recorded, as he had been staying with Robert Scherl, the producer of the recording, in Silver Spring, Maryland, in 1968.27

Hoskins convinced Rosenthal that he had no knowledge of Vanguard’s activities and the two of them set out to sue Vanguard in 1973, arguing that Vanguard had caused problems for the Adelphi–MRI contract (p.213) and that Vanguard had fraudulently obtained Hurt’s and Gart’s signatures. Hoskins and Rosenthal agreed to split the costs of pursuing the Vanguard suit and to share any revenue from it.

The court dismissed Adelphi’s claims but upheld the MRI claim against Vanguard. The case was concluded on November 10, 1975, resulting in a payment of $297,000 to Tom Hoskins in 1976.28 Legal costs swallowed almost a third of this, but Hoskins was left with around $214,000 of which, true to his word, he handed $107,000 to Gene Rosenthal. Hoskins quickly spent his share on a home, several cars, motorcycles, records, and stereo equipment and paid his income taxes.29 The MRI contract did not specify that John would receive any income from successful lawsuits over his recordings and apparently none of this money, which could have made a huge difference to her quality of life in her later years, went to Jessie and family.

Origin Jazz Library Records

In a further attempt to increase recognition and sales of John’s music, Tom Hoskins decided to lease permission for rereleases of the original Piedmont albums to the Origin Jazz Library run by Bill Givens. In a letter to Jessie’s attorney, George Goldstein, of May 21, 1968, Bill Givens clearly set out that he had concluded a contract with MRI in November 1967 to do this and released the LPs in February 1968.30 He added that business had been very good for a small operation, having shipped out more than a thousand copies of each release. Givens’s letter was clearly a response to a question he had received from Goldstein asking about payments to Jessie. He went on to say:

I made them a substantial advance and agreed to pay them royalties that are quite generous. It is stipulated in my contract with them that they will assume the responsibility of forwarding to Mrs. Hurt whatever is due to her according to their contractual arrangements with her late husband. I have been given to understand that they are exceeding the minimum requirements of their responsibility to her by a wide margin. I would appreciate it if you would contact Jesse Hurt, at whose table I had the pleasure of dining many times when I lived in Washington, and assure her than the money she has been receiving from Music Research these last few months is in consideration of royalties on the two recordings.31

(p.214) Six years later, in a letter to Tom Hoskins dated July 17, 1974, Bill Givens presented figures for the payment of royalties from the sales of the OJL rereleases of the original Piedmont albums. Total payments from OJL since December 15, 1972, amounted to $2,524.50. Givens added that the albums were holding steady at about 30 percent of his total business with no particular falling off. He did suggest: “However, with the business outlook as bleak as everyone keeps saying, maybe you should be thinking about taking the 2 Hurts back and getting them out yourself. If you put some new covers on them, a lot of people will buy them all over again.”32

A letter of October 20, 1974, appears to confirm that MRI did take them back and states, rather bluntly, that the right to reissue the two Piedmont albums is hereby terminated.33 Oddly, a sales letter from MRI, dated February 15, 1973, advised record distributors that the lease agreement with OJL had already been terminated. Inexplicably, OJL actually continued to sell these records until 1992 and royalties on them amounted to about $48,000 over the twenty-five years of OJL sales, all of which was paid to Tom Hoskins.34

Rebel Records

In 1971 it became apparent to Tom Hoskins that a Canadian LP of Mississippi John Hurt was being marketed illegally and without authorization. It took Hoskins, with help from Gene Rosenthal, until 1975 to locate the perpetrator, John Irvine of Rebel Records in Toronto, Canada.35 The Rebel LP, recorded in 1964–65, was titled, Mississippi John Hurt Volume One of a Legacy and was released between 1969 and 1971.36 Hoskins and Rosenthal visited Irvine and were apparently shown a contract between him and Peter Kuykendall (Wynwood Music Company and Recording Studio) that purported to pass master tapes of John Hurt’s music recorded by Kuykendall to Irvine.37 A further dispute ensued between Wynwood (Kuykendall) and Hoskins over the ownership of the tapes and the associated copyright. The whereabouts of these tapes is currently unknown.]

After Rebel Records had been informed that their use of the original masters was illegal, they immediately withdrew the records from sale. A Canadian bank immediately seized the master recordings and Hoskins, unable to recover them, obtained a copy of the Rebel LP, remastered from that, and produced and released his own version of the Legacy album on Piedmont in 197538 (later reissued on CD by Rounder).

(p.215) Rounder Records

Rounder Records became involved in producing and marketing Mississippi John Hurt records in 1990, when they leased the masters of the original Piedmont albums from Tom Hoskins, and in 1991, when they released them on CD. Tom Hoskins had Rounder send all royalties to him while Wynwood continued to pay their royalties to John William Man Hurt and Ella Mae after Jessie’s death.

Collectables Records

In 1994 Tom Hoskins signed an agreement with Collectables Records of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to release a CD of John Hurt’s music. The company issued the CD Satisfying Blues on April 24, 1995. By 2001 he had received $3,164 in royalties from them.39

Jessie Dies in Grenada

After two years of delays and confusion over royalty payments following John’s death, Jessie began receiving payments from MRI (including royalties from OJL), Vanguard, and Wynwood and may have been relatively comfortable in her apartment in Washington Gardens, though she was not well off. She began to suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes; she died at the Grenada County Hospital on July 20, 1982, aged between 79 and 91 years old.40 She was buried close to John and other members of the Hurt family at the St. James cemetery above Avalon. She left barely sufficient money to pay for the funeral expenses and insufficient to purchase a grave marker. Her grave remains unmarked to this day.

Jessie’s son, John W. (Man) Hurt informed the registrar of her death, providing his mailing address as 714 South Street, Grenada.41 This is the home of Ms. Kitty (Mrs. Lillian Mitchell), who had remained friendly with John and Jessie since they all lived in Avalon, provided board, and helped John and Jessie find the house on North Levee Street when they returned to Grenada in 1966. It seems that Man was lodging with Ms. Kitty at the time of Jessie’s death. Ella Mae also lived in Grenada and married before moving away. Ms. Kitty told me that after Jessie’s death, “a man from New York came and asked her for John’s hat and took it away.”

(p.216) In a will dated December 29, 1972, Jessie left the residue of her estate, after funeral expenses and debts had been paid, in trust for the benefit of her son, John William (Man) Hurt, and her grandchildren, Ella Mae Hurt and Andrew Lee Hurt. The trustees, named as Thomas Bird Hoskins, Mahlon Kline Lea, and Leland McMahon Talbot, were empowered to provide an income to the beneficiaries as they saw fit. The trust was to terminate when Andrew, the youngest grandchild reached an age of 25 years. In the event that Andrew was 25 years old before Jessie’s death the trust was not to be created and her property was to be distributed, 10 percent to John William (Man) and 90 percent to be shared equally by the grandchildren. Tom Hoskins was appointed as executor of her will.42 Andrew was 23 and Ella Mae 27 when Jessie died. The trust was established.

Life Goes On for Tom Hoskins

With the successful conclusion of the Vanguard suit, at the close of the 1970s Tom Hoskins got on with his rather impromptu life style, hoping that he could settle down to a continuing income from his earlier labors. Hoskins befriended artist Bill Storck, whose brother had built a cabin on Bill’s property in the woods near a small lake in Maryland. Tom lived in the cabin for several months around 1984–85. Bill takes up the story:

I first met Fang at Bill Tydings’ garage. I was a John Hurt fan and was playing John Hurt music on my guitar. Tom heard me and we struck up a friendship. We met around 1983 and we spent a lot of time together until I got married in 1987. He lived on the edge—a simple life; living out of the back of his car. Tom was charming, humorous, very intelligent and generous, but he could be very demanding. Eventually, his drinking got out of hand and I had to ask him to leave.

Tom Hoskins loved the outdoors and he loved to fish. His sister Suzanne told of his close attraction to watery environments; how he liked to be around lakes and rivers and riparian wildlife. He once had a job as fisheries warden on Chesapeake Bay. He was also an avid collector of anything interesting to him and had a nose for finding things. Joe Lee tells of an amazing discovery by Hoskins of 5,000 hours of recordings of bluegrass and country musicians from the 1950s and 1960s that included priceless material of Flatt and Scruggs, Johnny Cash, and the Stanley Brothers. Joe Lee encouraged Hoskins to deposit the tapes with (p.217)

. The Legacies of Mississippi John Hurt

Figure 5.2. Tom Hoskins.

(Suzanne Hoskins Brown.)

the Library of Congress, but they are still owned by Leon Kagarise, who recorded them in Maryland in the 1950s and 1960s.43

He became interested in exploring the links between African and African American music and eventually found sponsorship for two trips to Africa to search for African musicians. However, according to sister Suzanne, he was upstaged by Paul Simon’s 1986 album Graceland. Bill Storck continues: “When Tom returned from Africa, he stayed with Bill Tydings and his wife to be, Trudy. Bill told him the rules; no smoking in the house. Tom chain smoked Camel and drank. He agreed, then immediately broke all the rules. He pushed at the boundaries. By 1987 Bill Tydings had also asked Fang to find other accommodation.”

Suzanne’s husband Joe liked Tommy and always looked forward to his visits, though the two of them could hardly have been more different. Joe recalled a trip he took with Tom in 1996 or 1997. “It was the trip of my life. I think Tommy was using me; I had a credit card and Tommy did not. We needed to rent cars.” They traveled by Amtrak and rented cars along the way. They called in to see Tommy’s friend and musician Delta X (Stephan Michelson) in Portland, Oregon.

“We bought records, which were all conveyed over to Mike Stewart’s house in North Carolina. Tommy carried a hiking bottle filled with vodka. At one point Tommy was smoking marijuana in a non-smoking compartment and people were complaining, but Tommy was oblivious. An announcement came on the public address system, ‘we have ways of detecting cigarette smoke. Smoking marijuana is a federal offence, and (p.218) if we find you, we will have federal marshals meet the train.’” Next day a black waitress said to Joe, “can’t you take care of that boy?”

Tommy was still sending money to Ella Mae, who had moved to Tacoma, Washington, and on the same trip they called in to see her. Joe remembers a man coming into the room: “he didn’t want us in there. I felt very uncomfortable.”

Adelphi Records: Memorial Anthology

In January 1994, twenty years after the initial delay provoked by the Vanguard releases in 1971–72, Adelphi Records (Gene Rosenthal’s company) released Memorial Anthology with an introduction by Gene Rosenthal. The double CD was subtitled Previously Unreleased Recordings from the Blues Vault. Unfortunately, Rosenthal did not mention his intention to do this to Tom Hoskins and Hoskins asked for the return of his tapes. Rosenthal refused, saying that Hoskins owed him money, including the original advance of $700 that he had given to Hoskins back in 1970. Disagreements about the income and allocation of profits between Hoskins and Rosenthal led to hostilities that resulted, at one stage, in police intervention.44 Hoskins was ordered not to meet with Rosenthal again. Once again, Tom Hoskins was drawn into fighting his battles in a court of law.

In addition, Gene Rosenthal had apparently taken possession of the original Rebel masters that had been seized by a bank in Canada. When Bill Tydings visited Rosenthal in 1977 to collect Hoskins’s tapes, Rosenthal had not given over all of the material that he had, saying that some had been lost.45 However, nearly twenty years later in 1995, Gene Rosenthal claimed to have possession of the “most desirable master” for the Rebel recording, which, as part of the settlement of the litigation between Hoskins and Rosenthal, he gave back to Hoskins.46 Thus, in 1997 Hoskins was able to authorize Rounder Records to release a CD version of the album called Mississippi John Hurt: Legend.47 Hoskins received a $2,500 advance from Rounder.48

Rosenthal also illegally withheld the Library of Congress master tapes, which belonged to Hoskins under the 1963 contract. The court decided that Hoskins could have made at least $90,000 over the previous fifteen years had he had access to this and the Rebel material and that Rosenthal was responsible for this loss. Rosenthal also owed Hoskins at least $11,874 from the original Piedmont deal that ended in 1978. Tom’s friend Joe Lee lent him the money to finance the litigation against Rosenthal’s illegal use (p.219) of the Memorial Anthology material and his retention of other tapes belonging to Hoskins. A bitter court battle ensued.

Settlement between Hoskins and Rosenthal was reached in 1995, giving Hoskins virtually all that he wanted. It was accepted that the 1970 agreement to produce the Memorial Anthology did not survive the Vanguard litigation and that the initial advance of $700 had been paid back by Hoskins as part of the accountings related to the Vanguard case in 1975. Furthermore, it was agreed and accepted that Rosenthal had illegally issued Memorial Anthology in 1993 and had made no attempt to contact Hoskins prior to its release. Rosenthal also had no right to use the photographs on the Anthology cover without permission under the original 1963 MRI agreement. The settlement agreement49 required Hoskins to grant Adelphi rights in perpetuity to continue manufacturing and distributing Memorial Anthology, for which Hoskins would receive agreed royalties including an advance of $2,000 to be paid by June 30, 1996. Rosenthal was also required to pay Hoskins a further $12,000 immediately, to include payment of outstanding royalties earned on sales of Memorial Anthology through December 31, 1994.

The Library of Congress Recordings

The Library of Congress recordings that Dick Spottswood had masterminded soon after John’s rediscovery in July 1963 were intended to record the majority of his music for posterity.50 Following the subsequent recording and commercial release of much of John’s repertoire between 1963 and 1966, the Library of Congress tapes were judged to represent versions recorded at a time before John had regained his full virtuosity.51 Consequently, little commercial interest was shown in them for nearly twenty years, and they remained within the Library of Congress collections. Eventually their importance was recognized, and they were released on the Flyright and Heritage labels in the United Kingdom in 1980, 1982, and 198852—not in the United States.

In 1990 Rounder Records approached Man Hurt (who was still lodging with Ms. Kitty in Grenada at this time) to obtain his permission to approach the Library of Congress with a view to releasing the music in the United States.53 Man agreed to the proposal; however, the project did not go ahead and no Rounder release occurred. It would be another fourteen years—over forty years after they were first recorded—before Fuel 2000 Records eventually released the recordings for worldwide consumption on two double CDs.54

(p.220) The Hurts and the Hoskins

Tom Hoskins did not have much chance to celebrate his victory over Rosenthal or his income from his original MRI contract. In 1993, eleven years after Jessie’s death, it was discovered that John and Gertrude had never legally divorced and therefore Gertrude and her family had a legal claim on the estate.55 Added to this was the question of the rights to income from recordings and music. It was to take another ten years or so to sort out.

Gertrude Hurt’s descendants decided to seek a ruling on their legitimate rights to an inheritance from the Mississippi John Hurt estate. On March 11, 1993, Irene Smith, one of John and Gertrude’s granddaughters, led a plaintiffs’ complaint on behalf of Gertrude and her family against defendants Tom Hoskins and Bill Nowlin of the Rounder Record Group seeking a determination on three issues:

  1. 1. that Gertrude’s side of the family are the rightful heirs.

  2. 2. that the management agreement (MRI) of March 15, 1963, was unconscionable and should be cancelled because “the terms of the contract are so outrageous, abusive, [and] fraudulent” that they “constitute total robbery by the defendant Thomas Hoskins.”

  3. 3. that a mandatory injunction be raised to compel Hoskins, Nowlin. and Rounder to pay royalties to plaintiffs.56

Tom Hoskins was hardly aware of Gertrude and her side of the family, nor is there any evidence that Jessie ever mentioned them to him. This seems understandable given that, although Jessie knew Gertrude, it was widely accepted that John and Gertrude had parted long ago and Jessie had been his wife for over thirty-five years.

Most of John’s East Coast acquaintances had no knowledge of Gertrude and her side of the family, but John’s grandnephew, Fred Bolden, said that his mother knew Gertrude very well and grew up with her cousins, John and Gertrude’s children T. C. and Ida Mae. The Spottswoods and, presumably, Tom Hoskins had heard of her, but she had not featured in John’s life since they had known him. As far as most people in the East were concerned, Jessie was John’s wife. Indeed, even some of John’s acquaintances in the Valley area were not aware of Gertrude, although T. C. and his family were well known. Billy Campbell and Josephine Jackson, who have lived in the Valley community all of their lives, explained that (p.221) people traveled very little in those days and there was little interchange even between the Delta folk in Avalon and the hill folk around Valley.

In spite of this, however, T. C.’s children would frequently visit John (Daddy John) and Jessie in the Valley area and Gertrude (Mama Dear), who lived close to them on Delta land in Avalon. Gertrude and her sister Jennie Simms were photographed together along with Jessie, John, and the grandchildren outside John’s house in 1963 when Tom Hoskins first visited (see ch. 3), and it seems likely that she was among the folks singing along inside the house when Hoskins made those first recordings.

Gertrude described Jessie as a “loose” woman who traveled from southern Mississippi to a logging camp near Avalon in the hopes of finding a man.57 Jessie later confirmed to John’s grandnephew Fred Bolden that she had been searching for a husband. Gertrude also claimed that Jessie was already pregnant with Man Hurt when she met John, but this is not possible as John “married” Jessie on December 4, 1927, and Man was not born until 1932. Gertrude said that John never married Jessie, but a record of the marriage of John Hurt to Jessie Nelson in 1927 was located in the Leflore County courthouse.58 Jessie had previously been married, changing her name from Cole to Nelson (see ch. 1). However, John was apparently never divorced from Gertrude, and so his marriage to Jessie was bigamous and invalid. John had told Tom Hoskins that he had talked to his white boss at the time about his split with Gertrude and he said that he would “take care of it.” Apparently he failed to do that, perhaps thinking that it was not important for a poor black sharecropper.

Gertrude and her children with John, Ida Mae and T. C., had always lived around Avalon, except for the brief period that Gertrude, Will Conley, Ida Mae, and T. C. spent in Bolivar County during the 1920s. It had apparently not entered anyone’s head that they might expect an inheritance from John. After all, poor black sharecroppers were not in the habit of leaving much to anyone anyhow.

Gertrude’s children and grandchildren all knew Jessie and remained close to her even after John’s death. Irene Smith (Mary Frances’s sister) said, “We knew Miss Jessie wasn’t our real grandmother, but we treated her like a grandmother.” She added that Gertrude sometimes looked after Man Hurt, but Man gave a contradictory account, saying that the only father and mother he ever knew were John and Jessie and that the Hurts were only interested in getting the royalties.59 Mary Frances found this account by Man particularly distressing, telling me that her Uncle Man and her mother were childhood friends and that Man was responsible for introducing her mother, Annie Dora Richardson, to her father T. C. Man was the only Uncle that T. C.’s children had on the paternal side of the (p.222) family and they had close contact with Man as children. Mary Frances and her siblings deeply loved and respected Ms. Jessie, and Mary Frances remembered that Jessie sent gifts of clothing for her mother and gifts for the children, including a pair of roller skates for Mary Frances, from Washington, D.C.

Mary Frances’s brother Lonnie, who spent many years working in Indianapolis but returned to Avalon, said that as a young man his grandfather was the most influential person in his life. Memphis Flyer reporter Heather Heilman reported:

As he looked at the house where his grandfather lived and thought about the conflict that divided his family, he began to weep. “Money would be good, but it’s not about money. It’s about this family.” Lonnie said that Man had recently visited them in 1999. “He was down here two months ago, sat down, and had dinner at our table.” Lonnie continued, “If you could have known my grandfather you’d understand. My grandfather was a very, very special person. I’m not talking just because of his music or the money he made, I’m talking as a person. When I was a kid he would talk to me. He encouraged me to make something of myself, without ever yelling at me. He taught me not to be bitter about the way things are. He’s part of me.” He added, “The family’s sacrifices were humanity’s gain.”60

The court case proceeded. Hoskins’s legal team presented affidavits from four people described as “experts from the record industry” (Stephen C. LaVere, ED Denson, Stefan Grossman, and Charles Kingman Mitchell)61 who stated that they felt that the terms of the original Music Research Inc. contract were “well within industry standards and very fair to John Hurt,” and that there was no proof that the terms were outrageous, abusive, and fraudulent.62 A court ruling on February 16, 1994, vindicated Hoskins, Nowlin, and Rounder.63

It took a further five years to settle the issue of inheritance. On May 17, 1999, in the Chancery Court of Grenada County, Mississippi, it was ruled that the only rightful heirs of John S. Hurt, deceased, are his wife, Gertrude Conley Hurt, the heirs of his deceased daughter, Idella Hurt Johnson (Ida Mae), who are Dorothy Miller and Jesse Johnson; and the heirs of his deceased son, T. C. Conley Hurt, which include, petitioners Irene Smith, Willie Ed Conley Hurt, T. C. Conley Hurt Jr., Lonnie Conley Hurt, Ulysses Conley Hurt, Sterling Conley Hurt, Mary Frances Conley Hurt Wright, Mary Ann Conley Hurt West, Rebecca Conley (p.223) Hurt, Henry Lee Conley Hurt, Annie Conley Hurt White, and Bobbie Conley Hurt Lawrence.64 But this did not address Tom Hoskins’s rights relevant to his continuing interest in John’s music, and a further challenge on behalf of Gertrude’s side of the family by Irene Smith against Hoskins was raised.

On January 24, 2000, Tom Hoskins, who was then residing at 185 Piedmont Road, Rutherfordton, North Carolina, answered under oath several questions raised by the Hurts. This was aimed at establishing the rights to John’s recordings under the terms of the initial Music Research contract. Hoskins described his rediscovery of Mississippi John Hurt and his subsequent relationship with John and Jessie. This included providing transport for them, taking care of medical needs, shopping for clothes and groceries, registering the children in school, and paying for them to attend a YMCA summer camp in Dowington, Pennsylvania, for three or four years.65

Hoskins went on to describe how he had intended to make a profit from his promotion of Mississippi John Hurt, but that Hurt was unable to generate enough income during his lifetime to make this possible.

While the fees for his appearances were very respectable, he was not able to work as often as a younger performer might have been. Additionally, someone had to travel with him which added expenses for food, tickets, etc. The terms of the Hurt–Music Research contract were never enforced by Music Research or myself. From 1965, nearly all gross revenue from all sources was paid to John Hurt and later to his widow, Jessie until her death around 1980. My relationship with the Hurts had become one of family. I had promised John that if he died before Jessie, I would do what I could to see to the welfare of Jessie, Andrew Lee and Ella Mae. This I did to the best of my ability.

Far from being “robbed” by Music Research and myself as is alleged in this lawsuit, John Hurt was able to experience many things otherwise impossible. He enjoyed traveling especially to music festivals. He met fans and other musicians who appreciated and respected his music and loved him as a person. The last three and a half years of his life were very satisfying to John Hurt and far removed from being a tenant farmer making twenty-eight dollars a month. It is my hope to now begin to derive some financial return from my investment in John Hurt’s recordings as called for in the Hurt–Music Research agreement. As I have no children or close relatives, I intend to leave my interest in the recordings to the two Hurt grandchildren, Andrew Lee and Ella Mae Hurt.66

(p.224) Vanguard paid royalties to John until his death and then to Jessie until she died. After 1981, Vanguard and Lawrence Welk Music Company, to whom Vanguard subsequently sold the contract, paid royalties to Tom Hoskins, who in turn paid a percentage to John William and Ella Mae.

Tom Hoskins was required to provide accounts covering his dealings with the various record companies; these were presented on March 4, 2001, and accepted by the court based on credible evidence on October 25, 2004.67 The court summarized the income as shown in Table 5.2.

In 1992 Wynwood was still sending money to John William “Man” Hurt and his daughter Ella Mae. Andrew could not be traced at this time, but had apparently been living in Fort Smith, Arkansas, around 1985.68 According to the original Music Research contract, the company, now owned by Tom Hoskins, was entitled to half of Vanguard and Wynwood Royalties. However, Hoskins, under oath in the Chancery Court of Grenada County, Mississippi, gave the following account of what actually took place.

John and his common law wife, Jesse [sic], who was named sole heir by this Court on November 8, 1967, had two young grandchildren to raise and their only income was his occasional live performances and record royalties. In 1965, I gained control of Music Research and made the decision to advance all royalties to John’s family, as they needed it more than I did. They were in their early 70s, raising two young grandchildren and I was a young man of 25, single and able to support myself by other means. My thinking was, “They get money now when they need it and I’ll get mine later when I’m older.”

Hoskins went on to state: “I did not take any of the Vanguard money until 1994 and have never taken any of the Wynwood money to this day.”69 The court found that these facts had been established by credible evidence. Tom Hoskins had named Ella Mae his heir.70

The Welk Music Group purchased Vanguard in 1986. On June 30, 1994, their royalties manager, Mardelle Cordero, sent a check for $26,712.92 to Tom Hoskins’s lawyer as payment of royalties for the period 1986– 93. Apparently this payment is included in the $33,000 paid by Vanguard to Tom Hoskins (see Table 5.2).

In March 1998 Rounder Records passed on to Tom Hoskins a letter that they had received from a Paul Van Gelder of Carmel, California, who said he had some audiotapes and a film reel (shot by Jacobsen) of Mississippi John Hurt and the Reverend Robert Wilkins. Hoskins contacted Van Gelder, saying that the material was stolen from his Maryland (p.225)

Table 5.2. Summary of Income and Its Distribution


Record or Publishing Company

John Hurt, Jessie et al.

MRI/Tom Hoskins



$19,117.42 (estimated)



$13,109.10 (estimated)


Origin Jazz Library

$48,000.00 (estimated)



$41,021.66 (estimated)



$40,026.00 (estimated)



$9,500.00 (actual)



$63,000.00 (estimated)



$33,000 (estimated)



$33,820.69* (actual)


$16,715.45 (actual)


$3,164.00 (actual)




(*) Includes $4,247.35 withheld at the time, pending conclusion of litigation.

apartment in 1965 and asked for the return. There is no known record of whether this material was returned and it has not been possible to trace Van Gelder.

The Death of Tom Hoskins

In 2002, just six months before he died, Tom turned up at Bill Storck’s house seeking a safe place to store several boxes containing papers and records, “He turned up in an old Volvo crammed with all his possessions. He handed me a box of tapes and an envelope, saying, ‘this is the Rosetta stone. It is priceless. Do not lose this.’” Around three years later, in 2005, Bill handed me that same package and the tapes and asked if I would convey them to Tom’s sister Suzanne, which I did. The package contained the original letters that had been written by John in 1963–66, and by Jessie in 1966–71, and sent to Tom. The tapes included the original recordings made by Tom in John’s house in Avalon in March 1963 when he rediscovered Mississippi John Hurt.

On January 27, 2002, almost two years to the day after court proceedings had been initiated by the Hurt family, exhausted by the continual battles over the legacy of Mississippi John Hurt, lonely and with failing (p.226) eyesight, Tom Hoskins died. He was 61 years old. His life ebbed away in a trailer park in Tallahassee, Florida, where he was found in a comatose state, his liver failing. By the time his sister Suzanne and her husband Joe got down there he was in a very poor state and died soon after in the hospital. The CD player and space heater that Suzanne and Joe had bought for him and his prized Emory guitar that John had played when he first visited Washington, and which he played at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963, were gone. Bill Storck told me, “Fang had placed so much value on that guitar, especially as John had played it.”

Suzanne inherited Tom’s estate, which largely consisted of several cardboard boxes of papers, records, and tapes. More significantly, her inheritance also involved substituting for her brother and shouldering the burden of the ongoing court case. Bill told me that Tom would have been furious that Suzanne had to spend so much money on litigation with the Hurt family.

Closure of the Hurt and Hoskins Litigation

The case rumbled on and eventually, on October 25, 2004, the Chancery Court in Grenada County, Mississippi, calculated that the estate of Tom Hoskins was entitled to half of the $233,774.18 that Jessie and family had received since John died, less the amount that he had already received. This appeared to leave $30,186.95 owed to Hoskins by the heirs. The court ruled that the estate of Tom Hoskins owns all rights in and to any music recorded by John Hurt during the terms of the management agreement (March 15, 1963–March 15, 1973), including record copyrights, as well as the physical tapes on which the recordings are embedded, along with a continuing entitlement to receive royalties from the Vanguard, Rounder, Adelphi, and Collectables record contracts and the Wynwood publishing agreement. The court dismissed the plaintiffs’ (Gertrude’s family) complaint and ordered that they should pay the costs of the court.71

Subsequently, a “Release and Settlement Agreement” was made between the Hurt estate (Gertrude’s family, with Mary Francis Hurt Wright as executrix) and the Hoskins estate (with Suzanne Brown as executrix). The two sides agreed that all royalty payments, including those currently held in escrow, from Vanguard, Rounder, Adelphi, and Collectables would be divided equally between the Hurt heirs and the Hoskins estate. Agreement was also reached that the Mississippi John Hurt materials, (p.227) including copyright and all extensions and renewals thereof, are owned by the Hoskins estate.72

On the subject of further recordings of Mississippi John Hurt, agreement was reached that each of the parties would cooperate in good faith to negotiate an agreement with Jay Warner, who manages the publishing rights for many artists, for the distribution and use of recordings of musical performances and spoken words of Mississippi John Hurt and tapes, CDs, and other recording formats, with all net revenues being disbursed equally between them. This agreement expired in August 2008. Similarly, agreement was reached that the parties would cooperate for the purpose of enhancing the Mississippi John Hurt Museum, including the loan of items for display.

John clearly enjoyed much of his rediscovery time, playing his music to appreciative and adoring audiences, making many good friends and generally enjoying life. He was never rich, but John did not desire money; and although his performing career did not generate huge amounts of money, relative to what John and his family had been used to before 1963 there was enough to make a considerable difference to their lifestyle. While they reaped some benefits from this, after John’s death Jessie and the grandchildren suffered considerable hardship almost entirely due to negligence on the part of several people, including some of those indirectly involved. Although incompetence, rather than premeditated malice, played a large part in this neglect, it has left an inexcusable legacy of hardship to the remaining Hurt family members.

Back in Avalon

John’s many friends and relatives around Valley missed John and Jessie. After John died Jessie made the trip from Grenada from time to time to visit John’s brothers Hennis and Hardy until their deaths in 1969 and 1971. Today Avalon is a shadow of what it once was. It no longer qualifies as a town, being a quiet, hardly noticeable cluster of houses off Highway 7. The Stinson’s Store had been the focus of the Avalon community since the Stinsons opened the store in 1908. Locals Larry and Mary Smith and Leagh Watson told me that Mrs. Stinson continued to run the store after the death of her husband in 1957 until around 1970, when it closed. In the mid-1970s it reopened and was run by Elaine and Bud Leishman for about two years after which they sold it to Buddy Cook who continued to run it for a further two years until around 1980, when it closed for good. (p.228)

. The Legacies of Mississippi John Hurt

Figure 5.3. The author at the Valley Store, July 2003.

(Neil Harpe.)

On a very windy day in the early 1980s it burned, and only the concrete base and metal supports remain today. The sharecropper’s shacks and the other stores are long gone. The railroad station building, covered in creepers, finally collapsed in 2008. Only the abandoned Avalon cotton gin remains from the old days, along with a scatter of houses located along the old Highway 7. Up the hill at Valley, there are hardly any dwellings along St. James Road, and the Hurt cemetery is all that remains there of a bygone age.

The Morelands sold the Valley Store in 1968 to Lahoma and Joyce Matthews, who owned it briefly before selling it to Larry Smith, the present owner, in 1969. The store finally closed down in 1994.73

Gertrude’s granddaughter Dorothy had always lived with Gertrude since her mother’s murder. After the death of T. C. in 1966, without a man to work on the plantation, Gertrude and Mary Frances’s family houses were no longer available to them and they were forced to move. Gertrude and Dorothy found a small apartment in Greenwood. The living conditions were poor. In 1996, when Gertrude was 105 years old, the water heater in the building exploded and the building was engulfed in flames. Gertrude was rescued from her room by her grandson Leggeso Kimble.74 (p.229)

. The Legacies of Mississippi John Hurt

Figure 5.4. John’s house on its original site, 2001.

(Mary Frances Hurt Wright.)

Mary’s mother Annie Richardson inherited land from her parents that had been in the Hurt family since she married T. C., and she was able to build a house there after T. C.’s death. Many of John’s living descendants are living a meager lifestyle today, as they always have. It is to be hoped that, following the relatively recent settlements, and the release of funds, this will change for the better.

John’s last employer in Valley, Albert Reginald Perkins, died on July 29, 1996, after being attacked by a bull. Longest lived of John’s generation was his first wife, Gertrude, who died three months after Tom Hoskins on April 26, 2002. Her close family and the temporary grave marker indicate that she was born June 25, 1890, and aged 111 years at her death. However, early census data (see ch. 1) indicate that she was born in 1898, listed at 2 years old in 1900, and 12 in 1910. This would make her 103 when she died.

The Valley store and John’s house are pretty much the only inanimate connections left to the thriving community that once nurtured the famous songster. But the memories live on among the older folk, and they are passing them along to the younger ones.

Rescuing John’s House

By the end of the twentieth century John’s old house was decaying. Nobody had lived in it since John, Jessie, Ella Mae, and Andrew left for (p.230) Washington in 1963. Perkins used it to store hay until his death in 1996. In 1995 Mary Frances was having recurring visions of her Daddy John’s house sitting and decaying in that field. By the end of 1997 the frustration led her to make a lone trip to Mississippi. She told none of her relatives in Carroll County and Greenwood that she was coming, not even her mother. She took the train to Greenwood and rented a car. Stopping nowhere, she drove to Daddy John’s old house.

Nothing about the house had changed since her previous visit a few months earlier. She stood gazing at the house with her back to the road when a car stopped behind her. It was fairly common for people to come and take pictures of the house or pose on the porch or by the old well and she did not turn around. In frustration and with little thought she uttered the words, “God, I wish I knew who owned this house.” The person behind her asked what that old house meant to her and what she would do with it if she knew. She replied, “My grandfather used to live here a long time ago.” The man asked again, “What would you do if you knew who owned the house?” Out of the blue she replied, “I would make it a museum.”

The man responded immediately, “I am the owner of this house and you can buy it from me.” In shock she turned around, asking if he knew her or her grandfather. The stranger responded, “I do not know you or your grandfather, but God told me you would be here today.” He said that he had sold all the land around there except the house and the land that surrounded it. Someone from up north had offered him $5,000 some years ago, but his daughter had talked him out of it, thinking that it may be of more value for the family of the person who once lived there. Then he said, “I will sell it to you now for the same price.” To Mary it might well have been a million dollars. She didn’t have even $500 at that time. She said nothing of her financial situation and promised him she would have the money the next day.

She jumped into the car and immediately drove to the Peoples Bank and Trust in North Carrollton and asked to speak with the president. His name was Pate and a clerk showed her into his office. She told him her story and how she had promised to have $5,000 available for the purchase next day. She rambled on and on about her vision of saving Daddy John’s house until she noticed that Pate was simply leaning back in his chair and staring at her in disbelief. When she stopped talking he took advantage of the silence to ask, “What is it you are trying to buy?” She replied more calmly, telling him where the house was located and that it was no longer a house, but a barn. To Mary’s surprise he answered, “You mean the old John Hurt house? Sure, you can pick up your check tomorrow.”

(p.231) The next day, as soon as the check was placed into her hands, she went immediately to the store on the corner across the street from the bank where Dave Murphy, the owner of Daddy John’s house, was waiting. As soon as she saw Murphy’s face she sensed a problem. He took her aside and told her that the owners of the surrounding land did not want a museum there, as it would disrupt their privacy. Someone might even burn it down. Continuing, he added, “but if you could move the house, you can have it free of charge.” She thought, “Move a house?!” Utterly devastated, she returned to her mother’s house to wait until her train left for Chicago the following evening. When she arrived, her mother’s telephone was ringing. She answered it. It was a friend that normally checked on her mother after her dialysis treatments. Sensing the despair in Mary’s voice, she asked, “Why are you so upset?” Mary told of her dilemma. The lady replied, “Moving houses is no big deal. People do that kind of thing all the time. In fact my parents moved a house and I know that the company is still in business.”

A few minutes later she called back with the telephone number of the company located in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Mary called them and described the situation with Daddy John’s house. The man explained that he could move the house using hydraulic jacks, but that it would be very expensive. Fearing another setback she asked how much? He replied, $5000.00. She immediately asked him to repeat the figure to be sure that she had heard him properly. He replied that a house that age would require special care and it was the best deal he could do and that she could take it or leave it. Of course, it was a perfect deal.

With the house moved to Mary’s land close by, she needed help, and it came along in the form of Art Browning. Art had grown up in Avalon and was aware of John, but never met him. He left Avalon to live in Jackson, Mississippi in 1960. Later, he heard about John’s rediscovery and became a big Hurt fan. He decided to move back to Avalon in 1995 and often passed by John’s old house along from the Valley Store.

Art was passing by one day, and as he glanced over to the big magnolia tree that shaded the front porch of John’s old house, he stopped short, hardly believing his eyes. The house was gone! He made inquiries and soon learned that John’s granddaughter had succeeded in moving the house down the road to her place. When he arrived at the newly located old house, he saw a young lady sweeping dust and hay from the place; he asked what she was doing. She replied that she was cleaning her granddaddy’s house up and that she was going to turn it into a museum. Seeing the scale of the task ahead, he promptly offered to help: “A museum? You’re going to need things to put in it.” And so he began scouring the (p.232) countryside and asking the locals for artifacts that might enhance the new museum. Items of furniture, record sleeves, photographs, and press cuttings were donated, and the museum took shape.

Mary had previously met Floyd Bailey, who also offered to help, and was the first one to open the door of the dilapidated house. “There were wasps and yellow jackets in there, and I was stung several times,” he said.

The Mississippi John Hurt Foundation

In spite of her recent activity, Mary was still bewildered about the recognition given to her Daddy John and realized that there was more to do. She established the Mississippi John Hurt Blues Foundation in 1999. The foundation is a nonprofit foundation with the following objectives:

  • To preserve the family and musical history of Mississippi John Hurt.

  • To expose disadvantaged urban and rural children to folk/blues music by providing educational opportunities and hands-on experience.

  • To nurture aspiring musicians in the field of folk/blues by providing performance opportunities and scholarship assistance.

  • To promote appreciation of African American culture as it relates to the foundation of music by providing students with in-depth study.

The foundation seeks corporate and individual support to fund these objectives.

Neil Harpe, an artist and musician from Annapolis, Maryland, and a big fan and exponent of Hurt’s music, had painted some very fine pictures of blues musicians and he had recently finished a picture of Mississippi John Hurt and placed it on his website. In 2002 he received a telephone call enquiring about the picture. A lady’s voice said, “You have a picture of my grandfather on your website and I’d like to buy it.” Neil answered, “I’m afraid you must be mistaken, that is a picture of the musician, Mississippi John Hurt.” Her response floored Neil: “Yes, I know, he’s my grandfather.” A long discussion followed. Neil, in common with other people who knew of John Hurt during his rediscovery period, knew nothing about this side of the family. The picture was acquired for the museum and now occupies a central position on entering the building.

As word of the foundation and the Museum spread, Mary began to accumulate pieces of furniture and memorabilia about John. Floyd Bailey and Art Browning continue to support Mary to this day. Art is the curator (p.233) of the museum and Bailey is always on hand to help with all manner of organizational and maintenance jobs needed to keep things going. Mary organized a dedication ceremony and music festival to open the museum on July 4, 2002.

John Sebastian, who named his sixties rock band the Lovin’ Spoonful after lyrics in John’s “Coffee Blues,” was the special guest, and musicians Mike Baytop, Eleanor Ellis, and Neil Harpe traveled from Annapolis to attend. Mary decided that she would hold an annual festival each July 4, and in 2003 the first Mississippi John Hurt Festival was held.

Increasing Recognition in Mississippi

After the second festival on July 7, 2004, Mississippi John Hurt was honored by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History with a state historic marker on Highway 7 at Avalon. The marker reads:

John S Hurt (18931966) was a pioneer blues and folk guitarist. Selftaught, Hurt rarely left his home at Avalon, where he worked as a farmer. Although he recorded several songs in 1928, including “Avalon Blues” and “Frankie,” he lived in relative obscurity before he was “rediscovered” in the blues revival of the 1960s.

A small dedication ceremony was held at the marker site at which Art Browning, the museum curator; Steve Cheseborough, a local Greenwood musician and writer; and this author Phil Ratcliffe performed. Local dignitaries and Mary Frances Hurt Wright made speeches. Mary Frances said: “This sign marks an important period in my life, because it confirms the historical and heroic attempt my grandfather made toward a completion of life. It confirms what an individual can do if he or she believes in himself and is willing to sacrifice enough to accomplish his dreams. I hope people, as I have, use my grandfather as an example to continue to endeavor and persevere in whatever their dreams may be.”

Interestingly, Mary views her grandfather’s achievements as a person as being greater than his achievements as a musician. This is perhaps to be expected from a family member, but it does support the view expressed in this book that John Hurt’s persona was every bit as significant as Mississippi John Hurt the musician.

A further tribute was made on February 25, 2008, when a crowd of around one hundred gathered at the Valley Store in the hill country above Avalon for the dedication of a second historic marker (see Fig. 5.5). Apart (p.234)

. The Legacies of Mississippi John Hurt

Figure 5.5. Mary Frances Hurt Wright at the Mississippi John Hurt Historic Marker, Valley Store, Valley. Mississippi Blues Commission, 2008.

(Philip R. Ratcliffe.)

from John’s house that now houses the museum, the store is just about the only remaining building that John actually frequented. The store is special because it served as the center of the small Valley community for nearly a century. The crowd gathered to witness the unveiling of a Mississippi Blues Trail marker provided by the Mississippi Blues Commission honoring Mississippi John Hurt. Wanda Clark, director of the Blues Trail Project, emceed the event and paid tribute to Hurt, saying that her father had visited the store and knew John. Gene Bush paid tribute by telling of the day he sat with John overlooking the Yalobusha River near the house on North Levee Street in Grenada (see ch. 4). They had sat for nearly two hours in silence. Gene said, “He had a quietness about him that spoke volumes.”

On my way to attend this event, I stopped off in Atlanta to pick up Tom Hoskins’s sister Suzanne. At the dedication ceremony I was invited to pay my own tribute to John and to speak of my progress in writing this biography. Most significantly, I was able to bring together Mary Frances and Suzanne who, in spite of past differences, share a common desire to increase the recognition of Mississippi John Hurt (see Fig. 5.6).

The marker reads:

World-renowned master of the acoustic guitar John Hurt, an important figure in the 1960s folk blues revival, spent most of his life doing farm work around Avalon in Carroll County and performing for parties and (p.235)

. The Legacies of Mississippi John Hurt

Figure 5.6. The author with Mary Frances Hurt Wright and Suzanne Hoskins Brown at the Valley Store historic marker dedication ceremony, February 2008.

(Annie Ratcliffe.)

local gatherings. Hurt (18931966) only began to earn a living from music after he left Mississippi in 1963 to play at folk festivals, colleges, and coffeehouses. His first recordings, 78 rpm discs released in 1928 29, are regarded as classics of the blues genre.

On the reverse side of the marker there is an abundance of information summarizing the story of John’s life.

Tributes to Mississippi John Hurt

Many artists have drawn inspiration from the music of Mississippi John Hurt and many have honored this by recording his songs and by composing others about him. John had asked his close friend Archie Edwards to continue his music: “Brother Arch, whatever you do, teach my music to other people. Don’t make no difference what color they are, teach it to them. Because I don’t want to die and you don’t want to die. Teach them my music and teach them your music.”75

Archie felt uncomfortable carrying this responsibility, due to his modesty in worrying that people would think he was trying to cash in on John Hurt’s name and reputation. As a consequence Archie did not play guitar (p.236) seriously again for two years after John’s death, when he returned and wrote “The Road is Rough and Rocky,” openly displaying his sadness for John’s passing and his friendship with him.

  • The road is rough and rocky but it won’t be rocky long,
  • John Hurt was my best friend but now he’s dead and gone.76

Patrick Sky displays a photograph of himself with Mississippi John Hurt on his 1975 LP Two Steps Forward One Step Back on which he covers John’s “Frankie and Albert,” “Payday,” and “Candy Man.”77 In 1999 Bill Morrissey released his tribute, the CD Songs of Mississippi John Hurt. Another tribute CD, Tribute to the Music of Mississippi John Hurt, published in July 2001, included contributions from a variety of big names including Taj Mahal, Bill Morrissey, John Hiatt, Geoff Muldaur, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Steve and Justin Earle, and Lucinda Williams. The 1972 LP by Taj Mahal, Recycling the Blues and Other Related Stuff,78 carries a photo of Taj and Mississippi John Hurt taken at a Newport Folk Festival on the cover, implying a connection between the two, but he does not play any John Hurt songs on the record.

Lost Jim (Jim Ohlmschmidt) has recorded three CDs of John’s music: Lost Jim Sings & Plays Mississippi John Hurt, Payday: Lost Jim Plays & Sings Mississippi John Hurt Vol. 2, and Got the Blues, Can’t Be Satisfied: Lost Jim Sings Mississippi John Hurt Vol. 3.79 Stefan Grossman commented, “Jim really captures the feel, sound and atmosphere of John’s music. The guitar playing is spot on and the vocals are great—very warm and evocative.”

Tunes composed about Mississippi John Hurt are included in Table 5.3, which culminates with the very fine tribute by Lost Jim in which he strings together snippets of melodies from several of John’s tunes into a self-composed song, “Dear Old Daddy John” about the story of John’s life. Appendix 4 provides a discography of Mississippi John Hurt’s music based on the excellent web-based, illustrated discography by Stefan Wirz.80

Stefan Grossman has played an important role in introducing a lot of aspiring musicians to Mississippi John Hurt’s music and, thereby, his persona. As a young man in New York in the 1960s, Stefan was obsessed with learning how to play guitar in the way of the old blues musicians. He met and learned from Mississippi John Hurt and Reverend Gary Davis. Since those days, in addition to becoming a leading exponent of finger style guitar, he has established himself through his Stefan Grossman Guitar Workshop as one of the primary teachers of the genre. Guitar workshop (p.237)

Table 5.3. Tunes composed about Mississippi John Hurt




Requiem for John Hurt

John Fahey

John Fahey: Requia and Other Compositions for Guitar, Vanguard VRS-9259 (SVRL-19033 UK), 1968

John Hurt

Hollins and Star

Sidewalks Talking, Ovation OV 14-07, 1970

Sam Lay & Mississippi John

Sam Lay

Sam Lay in Bluesland, Blue Thumb BTS-14, 1970

Funeral Song for John Hurt

John Fahey

John Fahey and His Orchestra: Of Rivers and Religion, Reprise CHR 1006, 1972; John Fahey: Live in Tasmania, Takoma TAK 7089, 1981

Did You Hear John Hurt

Tom Paxton

Tom Paxton: New Songs From the Briarpatch, Vanguard VSD-79395, 1977

Mississippi John

Wizz Jones

Wizz Jones: Magical Flight, PLR 009 (UK), 1977; Folk Freak FF 4003, 1978; Scenes of SCOFCD 1006, 1999

Did You Hear John Hurt

Dave Van Ronk

Dave Van Ronk: Somebody Else, Not Me, Philo PH 1065, 1979; The Greenwich Village Folk Festival 1989-90, Gadfly 222 (CD Gadfly 100591), 1990; Dave Van Ronk:…and the tin pan bended and the story ended…, Smithsonian Folkways CD SFW 40156, 2004

Did You Hear John Hurt

Doc and Merle Watson

Sittin’ Here Pickin’ the Blues, Rounder CD 1166-11617-2, 2004

John Hurt

Doc and Merle Watson

Red Rocking Chair, Flying Fish 17252, 1981

John Hurt Medley

Chris Smither

Chris Smither: It Ain’t Easy, Adelphi AD 1031 and GCD 1031, 1984

Ode To Mississippi John Hurt

Stefan Grossman

Stefan Grossman: Love, Devils and Blues, Shanachie 97001, 1988

John Hurt

Dave Van Ronk

Dave Van Ronk: A Chrestomathy, Gazell GPCD 2007/8, 1992

Did You Hear John Hurt

Tom Paxton & Dave Van Ronk

Christine Lavin Presents: Follow That Road, Rounder/Philo CD 1164, 1994

Mississippi John

Happy and Artie Traum

The Test of Time, Roaring Stream RS 201, 1994

John Hurt Medley

Shinobu Sato

Shinobu Sato: Little Signs of Autumn, Waterbug CD 3, 1994

John Hurt Medley

Terry Robb’s Acoustic Blues Trio

Terry Robb: Acoustic Blues Trio, Burnside CD 19, 1995

John Hurt in the 21st Century

Peter Lang

Peter Lang: Guitar, Horus HM 1036, 2003

Did You Hear John Hurt?

Eve Goldberg

Eve Goldberg: Crossing the Water, Borealis BCD 150, 2003

Tribute to Mississippi John Hurt

Chris Smither

Honeysuckle Dog, Okra-Tone CD 4971, 2004

Did You Hear John Hurt?’

Tom Paxton, Bob Gibson & Anne Hills

Tom Paxton, Bob Gibson & Anne Hills: Best Of Friends, Appleseed CD 1077, 2004

Mississippi John Hurt (Instrumental)

Taj Mahal

Blues Masters: Taj Mahal, Digital Musicworks International, 2005

Daddy John (Instrumental)

Lost Jim

Payday: Lost Jim Plays & Sings Mississippi John Hurt, Vol 2 JPG Records, 2006

Dear Old Daddy John

Lost Jim

Got The Blues, Can’t Be Satisfied: Lost Jim Sings Mississippi John Hurt, CD to be released

(p.238) lessons on CD by Grossman81 and DVDs by John Miller82 along with the accompanying booklets provide an effective way for guitarists to become familiar with Hurt’s music and have played a significant role in introducing Hurt’s music to a large number of people.

On April 12, 2006, the New York Guitar Festival presented “Blues Fallin’ Down Like Rain”: four evenings celebrating the music of Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, Charlie Patton, and Elizabeth Cotten. The performers included Jorma Kaukonen, John Hammond, Rory Block, Stefan Grossman, Taj Mahal, Mike Seeger, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Jen Chapin, and Charlie Sexton.

Later that year, on November 18, the Friends of Old Time Music (FOTM) presented their conference, “Folk Music in the City,” at the Proshansky Auditorium CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue at 34th Street. At Town Hall that evening, they presented the Friends of Old Time Music Tribute Concert with Doc Watson and the New Lost City Ramblers. Among an eminent gathering of guest speakers that included Ron Cohen, John Cohen, Izzy Young, Kate Rinzler, Peter Siegel, Ray Allen, Mike Seeger, Richard Kurin, Henrietta Yurchenco, Doc Watson, Bill Malone, and Jean Ritchie, Mary Frances Hurt Wright spoke about her grandfather, Mississippi John Hurt. It was almost forty years after he had appeared as a guest performer there.

Mississippi John Hurt is recognized all over the world as one of the greatest of the early southern folk musicians, and more and more people are enjoying his music. John’s legacy to humanity as a wonderful warm (p.239)

. The Legacies of Mississippi John Hurt

Figure 5.7. The author

(a.k.a. Dr. Phil; Delta Dan) with Gene Bush at the Mississippi John Hurt Festival, 2009. (Jim Steeby.)

person whose personal philosophy transcends false boundaries of race and class is also increasingly recognized with every new generation. I hope that this book will continue to spread this message and be recognized as a fitting tribute to that wonderful little man in the fedora from Avalon, Mississippi.

A Final Word

On July 2, 2003, accompanied by Neil Harpe, I arrived at the first Mississippi John Hurt festival among the hills in Valley above Avalon, Mississippi. The sun was shining and it was hot and humid. The scene was relaxed. People were wandering around making ready for the gospel and blues festivals to be held over the next two days. I immediately spotted the old shotgun house in which John and Jessie had lived. As we got out of the car we were greeted with a warm welcome from an elegant lady with a big smile.

(p.240) “Hi and welcome, I am Mary Frances,” she said. I could hardly believe that I was here in Avalon talking to Mississippi John Hurt’s granddaughter. The next two days were a whirl of excitement, friendship, love, and emotion. I spent hours talking to local people who had known John. I scribbled a few notes, played some of John’s tunes, and drank a beer or two under the shade of the trees in the humid heat of midsummer Mississippi. Without being aware of it, I had begun to catalogue the story of Mississippi John Hurt. Now I have come full circle. I hope that you have enjoyed his story.


(1) . Estate of John Hurt, deceased, Final Order.

(2) . Copy of letter from Jessie Hurt to unknown attorney (probably George E. Goldstein), December 4, 1966. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(3) . Copy of letter from Jessie Hurt to Maynard Solomon of Vanguard Records, December 11, 1966. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(4) . Letter from Jessie Hurt to Tom Hoskins, December 30, 1966. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(5) . Copy of letter from Jessie Hurt to Maynard Solomon of Vanguard Records, January 17, 1967. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(6) . Copy of letter from Jessie Hurt to Maynard Solomon of Vanguard Records, February 9, 1967. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(7) . Copy of letter from Jessie Hurt to Maynard Solomon of Vanguard Records, May 15, 1967. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(8) . Copy of letter from Jessie Hurt to Maynard Solomon of Vanguard Records, July 25, 1967. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(9) . Letter from Jessie Hurt to Tom Hoskins, November 11, 1967. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(10) . Envelopes from Jessie Hurt sent from No. 1 North Levee Street, November 11, 1967, and from 863 Telegraph Street, Grenada, Mississippi, December 3, 1967. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(11) . Copy of letter from Jessie Hurt to George E. Goldstein of Goldstein and Goldstein, Philadelphia, April 24, 1968. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(12) . Copy of letter from Jessie Hurt to George E. Goldstein of Goldstein and Goldstein, Philadelphia, October 7, 1968. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(13) . It was and remains standard practice for record companies to prepare accounts and make payments every six months.

(14) . Copy of letter (part) and envelope from Tom Hoskins to Jessie Hurt ca. November–December 1968. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(15) . Copy of letter from Peter V. Kuykendall of Wynwood Music Co. to Maynard Solomon of Vanguard Records, New York, November 11, 1968. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(16) . Copy of letter from Peter V. Kuykendall of Wynwood Music Co. to Leland Talbot III of Music Research Inc., Annapolis, Maryland, July 17, 1969. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(17) . A severe epidemic of influenza struck the United States in late 1968.

(18) . Letter from Jessie Hurt to Tom Hoskins, December 6, 1968. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(19) . Easter card from Jessie Hurt to Tom Hoskins, March 31, 1969. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(20) . Grave marker for Hardy Hurt, St. James Cemetery, Avalon, Mississippi.

(21) . Letter from Jessie Hurt to Tom Hoskins, May 8, 1971. Tom Hoskins Archive. (p.289)

(22) . Letter from Jessie Hurt to Tom Hoskins, January 4, 1972. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(23) . Agreement of November 30, 1965, between Vanguard Record and Mississippi John Hurt.

(24) . Copy of Agreement between Adelphi Studios and Music Research Incorporated, June 8, 1970. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(25) . Copy of letter from Eugene Rosenthal of Adelphi Studios to W. Wright Gedge of Wright Gedge Stereo Recording Company, Grosse Point, Michigan, September 10, 1970. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(26) . Copy of letter from W. Wright Gedge of Wright Gedge Stereo Recording Company, Grosse Point, Michigan, to Eugene Rosenthal of Adelphi Studios, September 18, 1970. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(27) . Copy of letter from Jessie Hurt to George E. Goldstein of Goldstein and Goldstein, Philadelphia, October 7, 1968, in which Jessie provides Goldstein with Tom Hoskins’s address c/o Robert Scherl. Tom Hoskins Archive

(28) . United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, No. 67 Docket 76-7160: Music Research, Inc., and Adelphi Records, Inc. v. Vanguard Recording Company, Inc., Argued November 10, 1976. Decided December 30, 1976. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(29) . Deposition of Thomas Bird Hoskins; Civil Action No. 81-0946, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Adelphi Records Inc. v. Polygram Records v. Mark Wenner, September 19, 1982, p. 16. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(30) . Mississippi John Hurt, Volume I of the Original Piedmont Recordings Folksongs and Blues (PLP-13157, 1963) and Volume II of the Original Piedmont Recordings Worried Blues (PLP-13161, 1964).

(31) . Copy of letter from Bill Givens of Origin Jazz Library to George E. Goldstein of Goldstein and Goldstein, Philadelphia, May 21, 1968. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(32) . Copy of letter from Bill Givens of Origin Jazz Library, Berkeley, California to Tom Hoskins of Music Research Inc., Maryland, July 17, 1974. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(33) . Copy letter from Tom Hoskins of Music Research Inc., Maryland to Bill Givens of Origin Jazz Library, Berkeley, California, October 20, 1974. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(34) . Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, In the Chancery Court of Grenada County, Mississippi; Irene Smith, et al., Plaintiffs versus Thomas Hoskins Estate, Suzanne Brown Executrix, Cause No. 92-8-277, October 26, 2004, p. 17. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(35) . Deposition of Thomas Bird Hoskins; Civil Action No. 122898, in the Circuit court for Montgomery County, Thomas B. Hoskins v. Eugene R. Rosenthal t/a Adelphi Studios and t/a Adelphi Records and t/a Genes Compact Disc Company and Adelphi Records, Inc., January 11, 1995, pp. 81, 103. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(36) . An advertisement from “Loose Blues News,” November 1995, for recently found factory fresh copies of the Rebel Records release of Mississippi John Hurt Volume One of a Legacy, Rebel Records CLPS 1068, priced at $12.99 was posted on Toronto Blues Society website, www.torontobluessociety.com. Subsequent correspondence with Rebel Records suggests that the LP was released between 1969 and 1971.

(37) . Written anonymous account (part) of a summary of legal difficulties that had beset MRI 1963–1975. Tom Hoskins Archive. (p.290)

(38) . Mississippi John Hurt, Volume One of a Legacy (LP, Piedmont-Legacy CLPS-1068, 1975), produced by Music Research, Inc., producers of Piedmont and Bullfrog Records.

(39) . Accounting of Thomas Hoskins, Irene Smith, et al., versus Thomas Hoskins, et al. Cause No. 92-8-277 in the Chancery Court of Grenada County, Mississippi, March 4, 2001. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(40) . Certificate of Death, Jessie L. Hurt, State of Mississippi Department of Health File Number: 123-82-11523. The death certificate gives the birth date as September 11, 1903 and her age as 73. The arithmetic is incorrect; if she was born in 1903 her age would be 79. Other sources suggest that Jessie was born in 1891, 1894 or 1895, which would make her actual age 91, 88, or 87.

(41) . Ibid.

(42) . Copy of Last Will and Testament of Jessie Lee Hurt, December 29, 1972. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(43) . Joe Lee, Fang 1941-2002 (CD, Private undated publication, Joe Lee); “Leon Kagarise’s Music Collection,” National Public Radio, June 2, 2003. npr.org/tem-plates/story/story.php?storyId=1280910.

(44) . Deposition of Thomas Bird Hoskins; Civil Action No. 81-0946, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Adelphi Records Inc. v. Polygram Records v. Mark Wenner, September 10, 1982, pp. 131–35. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(45) . Deposition of Thomas Bird Hoskins; Civil Action No. 122898, in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Thomas B. Hoskins v Eugene R. Rosenthal t/a Adelphi Studios and t/a Adelphi Records and t/a Genes Compact Disc Company and Adelphi Records, Inc., January 11, 1995, pp. 105–10.

(46) . Letter from his attorney Charles F. Morgan to Thomas B. Hoskins, January 20, 1995.

(47) . Jon Hartley Fox, notes to Mississippi John Hurt Legend (Rounder CD 1100, 1997).

(48) . Contract between William G. Nowlin Jr. of Rounder Records and Thomas B. Hoskins, April 14, 1991, licensing Rounder’s use of the John Hurt Legacy LP. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(49) . Letter and attached draft licensing agreement re: Hoskins v. Eugene R. Rosenthal, et al. Montgomery County Court Case No. 122898, June 30, 1995. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(50) . Dick Spottswood, notes to Mississippi John Hurt, D.C. Blues Library of Congress Recordings Volume 2 (double CD, Fuel 2000 302 061 495 2, 2005).

(51) . Dick Spottswood, in Kay, “Mississippi John Hurt.”

(52) . UK issues of the Library of Congress recordings of Mississippi John Hurt: Monday Morning Blues, Library of Congress Recordings Volume 1 (Flyright FLYLP 553, 1980); Avalon Blues, Library of Congress Recordings Volume 2 (Heritage HT-301, 1982); Sacred and Secular, Library of Congress Recordings Volume 3 (Heritage HT-320, 1988).

(53) . Copy of letter to John William Hurt, March 2, 1990, from Bill Nowlin of Rounder Records. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(54) . D.C. Blues, Library of Congress Recordings Volume 1 and Volume 2.

(55) . Order to determine rightful heirs of John S. Hurt deceased, Chancery Court of Grenada County, Mississippi, No. 92-8-277, May 17, 1999. (p.291)

(56) . United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, March 11, 1993, Case Number 3:92CV167-B-O. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(57) . Heilman, “Lawsuit Blues.”

(58) . Ibid.

(59) . Letter from John William “Man” Hurt in Greenwood Commonwealth, cited in Heilman, “Lawsuit Blues,” p. 21.

(60) . Heilman, “Lawsuit Blues,” p. 21.

(61) . LaVere, Denson, and Grossman were involved with small independent record labels. Mitchell was Hoskins’s lawyer and familiar with the recording industry.

(62) . United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, March 11, 1993, Case Number 3:92CV167-B-O. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(63) . Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order Granting Summary Judgment, February 16, 1994, In the Chancery Court of Grenada County, State of Mississippi. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(64) . Order to determine rightful heirs of John S. Hurt deceased, Chancery Court of Grenada County, Mississippi, No. 92-8-277, May 17, 1999. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(65) . Answer to Plaintiffs’ First Set of Interrogatories, Irene Smith, et al., versus Thomas Hoskins, et al. Cause No. 92-8-277 in the Chancery Court of Grenada County, Mississippi, January 24, 2000. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(66) . Ibid.

(67) . Accounting of Thomas Hoskins, Irene Smith, et al., versus Thomas Hoskins, et al. Cause No. 92-8-277. Tom Hoskins Archive; Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law, re: Irene Smith et al. versus Thomas Hoskins Estate, Suzanne Brown, Executrix. Cause No. 92-8-277, In the Chancery Court of Grenada County, Mississippi, Ordered, October 25, 2004; Filed October 26, 2004. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(68) . Letter from the Library of Congress, Washington D.C., to Mr. Delaney (probably of Rounder Records), April 13, 1985. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(69) . Accounting of Thomas Hoskins, Irene Smith, et al., versus Thomas Hoskins, et al. Cause No. 92-8-277.

(70) . Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law, re- Irene Smith et al. versus Thomas Hoskins Estate, Suzanne Brown, Executrix. Cause No. 92-8-277; Heilman, “Lawsuit Blues,” p. 24.

(71) . Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law, re: Irene Smith et al. versus Thomas Hoskins Estate, Suzanne Brown, Executrix. Cause No. 92-8-277.

(72) . Release and Settlement Agreement relating to the Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law, re: Irene Smith et al. versus Thomas Hoskins Estate, Suzanne Brown, Executrix. Cause No. 92-8-277, In the Chancery Court of Grenada County, Mississippi. Ordered, October 25, 2004; Filed October 26, 2004. Tom Hoskins Archive.

(73) . Land Records, Old Records Room of the Courthouse, Carrollton, Mississippi, and interview of Records administrator, Debbie McLean.

(74) . A. Renee Williams, “105-year-old woman rescued from blaze,” Press cutting from unknown source, Mississippi John Hurt Museum, Valley, Carrollton, Mississippi.

(75) . “Archie Edwards, A Biography,” by Richard Burton, Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation, 2007. (p.292)

(76) . Archie Edwards, “The Road Is Rough And Rocky” (45, SRI NR 4328-2, 1977).

(77) . Patrick Sky, Two Steps Forward One Step Back (Leviathan SLIF 2000, 1975); Bill Morrissey, Songs of Mississippi John Hurt (Philo/Rounder CD 11671-1216-2, 1999; Avalon Blues: A Tribute to the Music of Mississippi John Hurt (Vanguard CD 7958-2, 2001).

(78) . Taj Mahal, Recycling the Blues and Other Related Stuff (Pure Pleasure Records/Columbia, LPUREPL 1605 [AL 31605], 1972).

(79) . Lost Jim Sings & Plays Mississippi John Hurt (Alabama Jubilee Music, 2005); Payday: Lost Jim Plays & Sings Mississippi John Hurt, Vol. 2 (JPG Records, 2006); Got The Blues, Can’t Be Satisfied: Lost Jim Sings Mississippi John Hurt, to be released.

(80) . Stefan Wirz, Mississippi John Hurt discography (www.wirz.de〉.

(81) . The Music of Mississippi John Hurt, including two CDs and written music, words, and tablature of a selection of tunes, Stefan Grossman’s Masters of Country Blues Guitar, Warner Bros. Publications, Miami Florida, 1993; Shake That Thing: The Guitar of Mississippi John Hurt Volume 1, Stefan Grossman, including three CDs and written music and tablature of a selection of tunes, Mel Bay Publications, Pacific, Montana, 2003; Avalon Blues, The Guitar of Mississippi John Hurt Volume 2, Stefan Grossman, including three CDs and written music and tablature of a selection of tunes, Mel Bay Publications, Pacific, Montana, 2003.

(82) . The Guitar of Mississippi John Hurt Volume One, Taught by John Miller, DVD OV12056; Volume Two, DVD OV12067, Stefan Grossman Guitar Workshop, Sparta, New Jersey, 2002.