Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI MUSICIANS: Othar Turner


Othar (a.k.a. Otha) Turner Othar Turner

Major Works

  • Otha's Piece (1993)
  • Fife and Drum Piece (1995)
  • Glory Hallelujah (1995)
  • Everybody Hollerin Goat (1998)
  • From Senegal to Senatobia (1998)

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Note: Othar Turner died Wednesday, February 26, 2003, at the age of 94.

Otha Turner: A Biography
By Jemelrah Clark (SHS)

Othar (Otha) Turner is one of the best fife players of all time.  He is from Gravel Springs, Mississippi, and has played many blues fests and concerts (Tom Freeland). His band, The Risen Star and Drum band, consists of family members and friends).  His CD  Everybody Hollerin' Goat was recorded on his farm in Gravel Springs and reached number two on billboard charts  in 1998.  It was also chosen as one of the five "Essential Blues Records of the Decade".  He also received the Miscellaneous Artist of the Year Award in 1998. 

Otha Turner and the Afrossippi AllstarsOthar Turner was born in 1909 in Rankin County, Mississippi.   He lives today in Gravel Springs, Mississippi.  Othar started playing the fife at the age of 16 (The Oxford American Magazine).  At that time, he saw  R.E. Williams playing a fife and thought it was interesting.  Mr. Williams gave Othar fife lessons whenever it rained  because they couldn't pick cotton when it rained.  Mr.  Williams promised to give Othar a fife if he obeyed his mother (www.nmsallstars.com).  A month later Othar received a new homemade cane fife, compliments of Mr. R.E.  (Living Blues Magazine).

Jemelrah Clark, SHS researcher. Photo by N. JacobsIn 1993 Othar first appeared on Mississippi Blues in Memphis Vol. 1. He wasn't real famous until then.  In 1993 he also recorded "Otha's Piece." 1995 was a busy year for Othar as he recorded two singles and appeared on two albums.  The singles are "Fife and Drum Piece" and "Glory Hallelujah."  The records he appeared on are "Traveling Through the Jungle and It Came From Memphis."  In 1996 Othar Turner and The Risen Star Fife and Drum Band performed in Chicago at the 13th Annual Chicago Blues Fest.  In 1998 he appeared on "The Allan Lomax Collection Sampler."  The year 1998 was his biggest year because Othar recorded his first album, Everybody Hollerin' Goat, and it  reached number two on billboard charts (www.nmsallstars.com).  The album was named as one of the five "Essential Blues Records of the Decade."  He also received the Miscellaneous Artist of the Year Award. The albums Everybody Hollerin' Goat and From Senegal to Senatobia, selections of which can be heard at www.billandotha .com, were produced by Luther Dickinson, a student of Othar Turner and a member of the North Mississippi All-Stars, a popular Mississippi musical group.

Everybody Hollerin' Goat, Othar TurnerTurner has appeared every year at the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival, where his Rising Star Fife and Drum Corps was the opening act.  His group includes his daughter, grandchildren and nephew. He has received a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Award, the Smithsonian Lifetime Achievement Award and the Charlie Patton Lifetime Achievement from the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival.  Most recently his music was heard as part of the soundtrack of the movie Gangs of New York, which includes his song "Shimmy She Wobble."

Othar Turner died in February, 2003.

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Timeline

1909- Born in Rankin County, Mississippi

1923- Began to take an interest in playing the  fife

1923- Received a fife from R.E. Edwards

1993- Appeared on Mississippi Blues in Memphis Vol. 1 album

1993- Recorded Otha's Piece

1995- Appeared on Traveling Through the JungleOthar Turner

1995- Recorded Fife and Drum Piece

1995- Appeared on It Came From Memphis

1995- Recorded Glory Hallelujah

1996- Performed at the 13th Annual Chicago Blues Fest

1998- Appeared on The Alan Lomax Collection Sampler

1998- Recorded Everybody Hollerin' Goat (Birdman)

1998- Received the Miscellaneous Artist of the Year Reward

1999--From Senegal to Senatobia (Birdman)

2002-His song Shimmy She Wobble used in Gangs of New York

2003 Othar Turner died at the age of 94.

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Related Websites

The New York Times publishes Othar Turner's obituary.

This site contains the biography and tribute to Othar Turner by the North Mississippi All Stars.

This site contains a more information about Othar Turner

This site contains picture of Othar Turner.

A biography and other info about Othar with samples of his music.

Obituary for Othar Turner by Bill Ellis of the Commercial Appeal.

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Bibliography

Freeland, Tom. "Othar Turner." E-mail to Jemelrah Clark. 8 April 1999.

"Othar Turner." Online. 6 May 1999. Available http://www.ink19.com.

Living Blues Magazine.

"The Bio Of Othar Turner." Online. 6 May 1999. Available http://www.nmsallstars.com/bioturner.html

Oxford American Magazine.

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 Copyright 1999
Updated March, 2003
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