The Hattiesburg Post and Signature Magazine – in conjunction with the Hattiesburg Arts Council and the City of Hattiesburg – have teamed up to create a new "Jook Joint" musical art installation in downtown Hattiesburg and friends of the late Robin Wentworth are working on a permanent memorial in his honor to be included at the site.
Designed by Hattiesburg's Wes Hanson, with the help of recruit Chris Dixon, the family-friendly and musically-inspired art installation will be located on the lawn of the future community arts center at the former Hattiesburg American newspaper building – and will ultimately be a place where people of all ages can come to create and enjoy music of all types. Support for the project also comes from the Hattiesburg Arts Council's Brian Blair Memorial Fund.
With a formal dedication planned for late September, the 'jook joint' is a throwback to the rough and rowdy blues-inspired dance halls of the 1930's and will help the community celebrate Hattiesburg's status as the true birthplace of rock & roll, as claimed by famed blues scholar and critic Robert Palmer in Rolling Stone Magazine's Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, published in 1980.
According to Palmer, the Mississippi Jook Band (brothers Roosevelt and Uaroy Graves and pianist Cooney Vaughan) earned a niche in the annals of rock after they recorded in Hattiesburg in 1936, nearly two decades before rock and roll exploded in the 1950s. Two of their songs, “Barbecue Bust” and “Dangerous Woman” were specifically cited by Palmer, who said that the “rocking and reeling” style of gospel exemplified by the Graves brothers “was beginning to influence secular music” at a time when “rock prototypes were already abundant” in the rural South.
The new installation will be in a small wooden pavilion located on the City of Hattiesburg's newly-acquired property and will include a keyboard and guitar amp that will be available for the general public to utilize. A Bluetooth speaker system will also be a part of the installation to allow the non-musically talented to stream their favorite music.
This campaign will specifically help raise the funds needed to finish the project and install a permanent memorial marker at the site in honor of Wentworth, who died in June 2018 following a courageous and public battle with Lou Gehrig's Disease.
The marker will be designed by Hattiesburg artist Erik Eaves and will pay tribute to Wentworth's uncanny knack of remaining positive – even in the face of a terminal illness.
For more on the late Robin Wentworth, check out the following articles from Hattiesburg's Signature Magazine:
NOTE: Unless requested otherwise, the names of donors who give $100 or more towards the project will be included on the memorial marker in proportion to the amount of their donation.