Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Leslie Johnson and Her Mississippi RAG

Growing up in the Deep South allowed me the fortuitous opportunity to be surrounded by great local artists. My granddaddy was friends with the likes of Arno Pace and Ray Stevens. Grandma and Grandpa took summer trips to Nashville to the Grand Ole Opry . It was akin to heaven for the two of them as Grandpa listened to songs that we all knew he'd be picking on his own dance floor back home.

I veered away from the blue grass and country of my granddaddy's band and found myself more in the tradition of heavier beats. I always found myself listening to more obscure non mainstream type music such as King Crimson or the Sex Pistols. But...I never deny my heritage or roots and sometimes when the mood hits me just right find my heart wanting a little of the blues and jazz.
The Mississippi Rag was the premiere authority on blues in the Delta. Leslie Johnson took that little upstart of a magazine to national and international success with readers in all 50 states and 26 foreign countries. In 2007 the Rag no longer put out 40 to 50 pages of printed sensational stories, but purely went to being an online publication. This was due to Leslie's personal illness and her eventual death to cancer.

My grandpa and grandma were huge fans of The Mississippi Rag and were faithful subscribers. I loved reading through the well done articles and was truly impressed by Leslie's journalistic writing abilities and her way of infusing the excitement of the music into each and ever article.

From start to finish, Leslie Johnson and her beloved magazine will be forever known as the absolute authority on Jazz and Blues around the country. What I admired most about Leslie was her dedication to black musicians. Other journals ignored these musicians, but Leslie never did.

One of her writers had this to say about The RAG:

"The RAG was an exemplary magazine in many ways — the tabloid format she insisted on allowed her to print many and large-scale illustrations, including rare and sometimes unique photos she got from the best collectors of this material."

Leslie left us as the single driving force that hailed early Jazz and ragtime and brought it the notoriety it most richly deserved. These are her parting words to her longtime staff of writers:

"I can't begin to tell you how much I treasure our history together. I am so proud of the quality of each RAG, and it's all due to your talent, creative spirit and willingness to explore the rich legacy of this music. Many musicians owe you thanks, too, because you have, in many cases, revived and/or enhanced their careers.

"Thank you so much. I love you all and will continue to be in touch for as long as possible."


Durango said...

Miss Cheap Costly Trick,

Apparently you've not been informed that currently the Mississippi Rag has been re-named the Mississippi Informational Publication. It is considered politically incorrect, in the modern era Deep South, to use the extremely pejorative term "Rag".

Cheap Tricks and Costly Truths said...

My dear Mr. Durango,
This is the very first I'm hearing of such political correctness. Am I being corrected in that I don't know current terminology? Surely you jest

Durango said...

Miss Trick,
I never jest.