Headstone Blues Marker Initiative
My Name is DeWayne Moore, the director of the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund, which has erected markers for Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Fred McDowell, Elmore James, and many other seminal blues artists.
We are soliciting donations for perhaps the most important Headstone Blues Initiative to date--to honor Camden, Mississippi native Belton Sutherland, who provided the most memorable performances of an Alan Lomax documentary called: The Land Where the Blues Began.
We have identified the correct cemetery as well as the exact burial location of this fierce and iconoclastic artist, whose enthralling performances demand not only respect but honor. Please help us and the congregants of St. John M.B. Church commemorate the life and music of a true Madison County legend...
You can learn more about our previous projects by going HERE.
Belton Sutherland was born on February 14, 1911--the same year as the legendary Robert Johnson. His parents, William and Mattie Sutherland, already had eight children, and they would have four more after Belton, making a total of thirteen. He lost his mother shortly before his eighth birthday, and he had married and moved to Holmes County by the age of eighteen. By the late 1930s, however, he came back to Madison County, got arrested for forging a $25 check, and served eight months of a two year prison sentence before the remainder got suspended by the governor.
(Jackson, MS) Clarion Ledger, March 10, 1937.
He stayed close to his home in Camden after his fortuitous release from prison, and he settled down to farming as well. He also played music on a semi-regular basis with Clyde Maxwell, of Canton, a versatile musician who played both fiddle and guitar. Largely unknown to the outside world, he was a mountain in his own neck of the woods and folklorist Worth Long had recognized his spellbinding performance ability during his many travels in the deep South during the 1960s and 1970s for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Long did not forget him when he returned to Mississippi in 1978 as a consultant for folklorist Alan Lomax, who sought talented individuals to particpate in the documentary, The Land Where the Blues Began.
The iconic performances of Belton Sutherland with Clyde Maxwell would be the only recorded evidence of his greatness. Only local people had the pleasure of enjoying his company and music during his more than seventy years on this earth. Though his on-screen sometimes playing partner Clyde Maxwell would make the trip to Washington County in October to perform at the inaugural Delta Blues Festival, for unknown reasons the field-hollering and guitar-playing blues shouter from Madison County did not come with him.
Sutherland ascended on October 7, 1983, and the local blues belter was buried by People's Funeral Home, of Jackson, at St. John MB Church Cemetery in Camden.
His grave sits next to the respectable headstone of his mother, Mattie Sutherland, in the family plot behind the church.