Gospel, country, bluegrass and Cajun influences shape our music and our culture. Enjoy the arts that have inspired many well-known musicians who grew up in Webster Parish.
Trace Adkins, was born in Sarepta in 1962 and took up the guitar at an early age. He went on to study music at Louisiana Tech, where he also played football and worked on an offshore oil rig after graduating. His finger was severed in an accident while on the job, and once several years had passed, he returned to music with the gospel quartet the New Commitments. After several years on the local circuit, he moved to Nashville and was quickly signed to Capitol. Since then he has become a country music mega-star with hit after hit, including Dreamin’ Out Loud, Every Light in the House, I Left Something Turned on at Home, (This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing, The Rest of Mine, Lonely Won’t Leave Me Alone, I’m Tryin’, The Rest of Mine, Comin on Strong and Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.
Born in Minden in 1939, James Burton was hired to be part of the staff band for the Louisiana Hayride radio show at age 14. In his teens he joined Ricky Nelson’s band. Burton created and played the guitar solo on Dale Hawkins 1957 hit song “Susie Q,” a record that would become one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. He was a guitarist of Elvis Presley’s “TCB Band” from 1969 until Presley’s death in 1977. A hallmark of Elvis’ live shows in this period was his cue for the guitarist’s solos, “Play it, James.” His later career included work with John Denver, Merle Haggard, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris and Elvis Costello. He is in the Rock and Roll and Musicians Hall of Fame.
The Cox Family, formed in Cotton Valley in 1972 and is best known for their recording, I Am Weary for the movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Members include Evelyn Cox, guitar, vocals; Sidney Cox, banjo, guitar, dobro, vocals; Suzanne Cox, mandolin, vocals; Willard Cox, fiddle, vocals. In 1994, after more than 20 years together as a band, the Cox Family won a Grammy Award for their work with Alison Krauss on I Know Who Holds Tomorrow. The Cox Family began performing at fairs and church socials. Willard Cox worked in the oil fields of Cotton Valley and played the fiddle and sang in his spare time. His son and daughters began joining their father to perform. While they sang both country and bluegrass, they made their reputation singing gospel. The Cox Family opened for the Counting Crows on the band’s 1994 North American tour. In 1995 they released Beyond the City and followed it with their major label debut, Just When We’re Thinking It’s Over. In 1996 the group won a Big Easy Entertainment Award for Best Country/Folk Artist.
Born in Minden, B.B. McKinney was Southern Baptists’ most prolific and best-known hymn writer of this century. He was editor of the 1940 Broadman Hymnal. McKinney wrote 149 gospel hymns and songs and composed the music for 114 texts written by others. His best-known songs include The Nail-Scarred Hand, Let Others See Jesus in You, Speak to My Heart and Wherever He Leads I’ll Go.
Springhill’s Country Music Singer Joe Stampley listened to his father’s Hank Williams records and learned to play piano before he was ten years of age. In the 1960s, he was the lead singer for the rock group, The Uniques, who recorded Not Too Long Ago and All These Things. He has more than 60 charted records, including Roll On Big Mama, Red Wine and Blue Memories, If You’ve Got Ten Minutes Let’s Fall in Love, Do You Ever Fool Around, I’m Gonna Love You Back To Lovin’ Me Again,Soul Song, Too Far Gone, If You Touch Me, You’ve Got To Love Me, I’m Still Loving You, and the remake of All These Things, which rocketed to #1 on the country charts. He also had a string of hits with Moe Bandy, including Just Good Ol’ Boys, and Where’s The Dress. He was “Billboard’s Single Artist of the Year” and he and Bandy received the Academy of Country Music’s (ACM) Vocal Duo award for two consecutive years. Stampley has been inducted into the Louisiana Country Music Hall Of Fame, as well as the Texas Country Music Association Hall of Fame.
Singer/songwriter, Percy Mayfield’s first and biggest hit was the blues ballad Please Send Me Someone to Love, recorded in 1950. Born in Minden, Mayfield wrote poems as a boy and set them to music, but his mother didn’t approve of blues, sohe only sang in church. In 1949, he recorded Two Years of Torture and scored seven Top 10 R&B hits through 1952, the year an auto accident permanently disfigured his once-handsome face. His greatest success came as a staff writer for Ray Charles in the early 60’s including the great Hit the Road, Jack and But on the Other Hand Baby, Hide nor Hair, and At the Club. Among the many artists who have recorded hissongs are Brook Benton, B.B. King, Junior Parker, Elvis Presley, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and Nancy Wilson.
Laverne Butler of Minden, an internationally renowned jazz vocalist, began singing professionally with her father, Scott Butler, when she was 13 years old. Later, as a student at the University of New Orleans, she worked with jazz legends Henry Butler and Alvin Batiste. She moved to New York in 1984 and recorded four highly regarded albums, including Blues in the City, which was number one on the jazz charts in 1999.
Singer Willie Lee Egan’s Wow Wow, Wear Your Black Dress and Rock and Roll Fever are regarded as classic 1950s rhythm and blues singles. He was born in 1933 in poverty, in the bayou country around Minden. When he was nine, Egan was sent to live with his grandmother in Los Angeles. He was entranced by the piano on his uncle’s front porch and he started playing it by numbering the keys. In 1949 he was discovered. In 1984, he recorded Going Back to Louisiana with the London band Juice on the Loose.