Reflections

On The Hunt For Locally Made Sorghum

By Charles Cooper


Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week.  
I can always depend on you readers to respond to a request for information about a particular subject.  In a previous column I asked if anyone knew about any sorghum molasses being made in the area.
Pam Franklin, who lives on Highway 315 in Panola County sent me a hand-written note. She said that her husband and son had been raising and cooking sorg-hum for 30 years and are located at the store on the left just after the Mt. Olivet church at 38803 Hwy. 315.  
She gave me a telephone number, but I hesitate to give it out without her permission. I intend to stop by on my next trip to Water Valley. Responses such as this have been a great asset to this column for the last 12 years and as always when I get a phone number I try to call and thank them personally.
I would like to see the actual operation if possible but I would assume that a tractor instead of a mule is used to power the mill.  
I remarked that back then everything about the sorghum stalk was utilized, except the ground mash which was usually dumped in a ditch. I’ve heard stories about the mash fermenting and hogs rooting in it and getting drunk, but I never saw it. I wonder if that was just another Mississippi tall tale.  
On another subject, back in March  Mr. Kenneth Baker emailed me wanting information about the All American quartet. That led to a discussion about the Dixie Four quartet that operated out of Memphis in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
He sent me an email the other day with pictures of two of the  members of the Dixie Four around 1941—Jim Waits, Jr. and Brown Carter. Jim Waits, Jr was the son of legendary bass singer, Big Jim Waits. I believe the picture is the young man I remember singing with the Dixie Four at that time.
V. O. Stamps died in August 1940, so this must have been September that same year. I was friends with Brown Carter in the 1980s and sang with him on several occasions. I even made a guest appearance on a radio program he had on Sunday mornings in Corinth. He was a wealth of information on early quartet singing as he was in one of 19 quartets traveling for Stamps-Baxter out of Dallas.  
They gave concerts and appeared at singing conventions promoting Stamps-Baxter books and singing schools. They were paid a salary and provided a Pontiac automobile for travel. They didn’t use a PA system.  
Mr. Baker, in regard to the Ozark quartet I had in the 1980s, our piano player, Monroe Norris, could have given you a lot of the information you requested  but he passed away a few years ago.
I’m still in touch frequently with Bob Holcomb, Bill Brasfield, and Jimmy Peacock who made up the rest of the group. I have lost the email address of Reverend George Lee, who is a gospel song writer and retired minister. He was a brother-in-law to my friend, Clinton Thomas, so if you could get it to me I’d greatly appreciate it.
I’m sorry to say that I haven’t been active in singings for a couple of years but I hope to get started again soon. You readers can be assured I’ll be back to local events soon, but as you know I always respond to letters and emails as soon as possible.
Let me hear from you at my email address cncooper1@hotmail.com  or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, TN 38101 and have a great week.

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