Reconciling the Blues King:
Rubin Lacy and the Importance of Inclusive Memorialization Processes
By T. DeWayne Moore
Lacy made four recordings for Columbia Records at a session in Memphis in December 1927, but none of them were ever released. The following March, he traveled to Chicago, where he recorded two songs for the Paramount label, “Mississippi Jail House Groan” and “Ham Hound Crave,” both of which he learned from Hendrix. Accompanying him on the trip to Chicago was an Italian immigrant and talent scout named Ralph Lembo, who owned several furniture and record stores in the Delta. Lacy referred to Lembo as his manager in the late 1960s, and he contributed a spoken part to “Ham Hound Crave.” Though Lacy recorded several sides for Columbia Records in Memphis, the only blues recordings of Lacy ever released were on the Paramount label. The two songs are considered such prime examples of Mississippi blues that both of them have appeared on numerous reissue CDs and LPs around the world.
Following a train-related injury in 1932 Lacy decided to join the ministry, a path followed at times by fellow Mississippi bluesmen of his generation, including House, Skip James, Ishmon Bracey, Skip James, and Robert Wilkins. Lacy preached in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri before relocating to California. In1966, ethnomusicologist David Evans, John Fahey, and Alan Wilson located Lacy in Ridgecrest, California, and recorded him preaching and performing gospel songs together with members of his congregation. Although Lacy would no longer perform blues, he remained proud of his early recordings and suggested to Evans that the religiously devout feel the blues “quicker than a sinner do, ‘cause the average sinner ain’t got nothing to worry about.”
Lacy was one of a number of blues performers born in Rankin County. Others included Luther and Percy Huff, Shirley Griffith, John Henry “Bubba” Brown, Tommy Lee Thompson, Othar Turner, Elmore James, Jessie “Little Howlin’ Wolf” Sanders, and Pelahatchie native Lefty “Leroy” Bates. Griffith, Bates, and some of Lacy’s children later moved to Indianapolis, Indiana.