Lillian McMurry

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Lillian Shedd McMurry (December 30, 1921 – March 18, 1999) was an American record producer and owner of Trumpet Records. She was influential in the development of blues music particularly through her recordings of Sonny Boy Williamson II and discovery of guitarist Elmore James.

Biography[edit]

Lillian Shedd was born in Purvis, Mississippi, and moved around the state with her family as a child.[1] By the early 1940s she was working as a secretary. She married furniture-store owner Willard McMurry in 1945, settling in Jackson, Mississippi. In 1949, she was helping her husband clear out a shop he had bought when she came upon a pile of old shellac 78 rpm phonograph discs, including Wynonie Harris' recording of "All She Wants to Do Is Rock". Curious, McMurry played it on the store's record player and became so inspired that, as well as selling the stock she had discovered, she also decided to record more music like it. By her own account, until that point she, as a white woman, had been completely unaware of the music being made on her doorstep by her African-American neighbors.[1][2] She said: "It was the most unusual, sincere and solid sound I'd ever heard. I'd never heard a black record before. I'd never heard anything with such rhythm and freedom."[3]

She opened her own music store, Record Mart, in Jackson, and in 1950 set up her own recording studio and established Trumpet Records. The first releases were of gospel music, but she soon auditioned and recorded both slide guitarist Elmore James, on his original recording of "Dust My Broom", and "Sonny Boy Williamson" (Aleck "Rice" Miller). Initially, McMurry apparently thought that "Williamson" was the original musician of that name.[3] Many of the sides he first recorded for Trumpet, such as "Eyesight to the Blind" and "Nine Below Zero", later became blues standards. His song "Pontiac Blues" was a tribute to McMurry's car.[3] McMurry was also credited with writing some of his songs, including "Red Hot Kisses."[2] Elmore James did not realise that his performance of "Dust My Broom" was being recorded, and after he found out, he refused to record for McMurry again, although the recording made him well known.[1]

Among the other musicians recorded by McMurry were Big Joe Williams, Willie Love, Clayton Love, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, and Jerry McCain. She acted as producer on many of the sessions recorded at Trumpet, and hired top musicians including B.B. King, Little Milton Campbell and Joe Willie Wilkins to play on them. She was also noted for refusing to adhere to the Jackson musicians union's segregationist requirements, and the sessions freely mixed black and white musicians.[2]

Rising debts caused Trumpet to fold in 1955, and McMurry went back to working in her husband's shop, while scrupulously continuing to pay the musicians' royalties. In 1965, she paid for Sonny Boy Williamson's tombstone.[1][2] In 1998, she was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, one of the few record producers to be granted that honour.[1] She died in Jackson from a heart attack at the age of 77 in 1999.[3]

On November 17, 2007, Lillian and Willard McMurry (who died in 1996) were posthumously honored with a historical marker on their former recording studio in Jackson, Mississippi. Her daughter, Vitrice, her son-in-law, and her granddaughter attended along with Dr. Woody Sistrunk and Trumpet musician Jerry McCain. The McMurry family was awarded a plaque to go along with the historical marker.[4]

References[edit]