Othar Turner

Musician, Musical Artist

1907 – 2003

47

Who was Othar Turner?

Othar "Otha" Turner was one of the last well-known fife players in the vanishing American fife and drum blues tradition. He was born in Madison County, Mississippi, and lived his entire life in northern Mississippi as a farmer, where in 1923, aged 16, he learned to play fifes fashioned out of rivercanes.

Turner's Rising Star Fife and Drum Band primarily played at farm parties. Turner, along with bandmates Mae Hemphill and Abe Young, performed as the "Mississippi Fife and Drum Corps" on an episode of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood that aired on November 18, 1982. They began to receive wider recognition in the 1990s. They appeared on Mississippi Blues in Memphis Vol. 1 in 1993, followed by inclusion in many other blues collections. They released their own critically acclaimed album Everybody Hollerin' Goat in 1998. This was followed by From Senegal to Senatobia in 1999, which combined bluesy fife and drum music with musicians credited as "the Afrossippi Allstars".

The title, Everybody Hollerin' Goat, refers to a tradition Turner began in the late 1950s of hosting Labor Day picnics where he would personally butcher and cook a goat in an iron kettle, and his band would provide musical entertainment. The picnics began as a neighborhood and family gathering; it grew over the years to attract musical fans, first from Memphis, Tennessee, and later from all over the world.

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Born
Jun 2, 1907
Rankin County
Also known as
  • Otha Turner
  • Turner, Otha
  • Turner, Othar
Ethnicity
  • African American
Nationality
  • United States of America
Profession
Died
Feb 26, 2003

Submitted
on July 23, 2013

Citation

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