Meeting the In-Laws

Sara made a trip with Dave, her fiance, to visit with her “soon-to-be” in-laws before their upcoming marriage.  They all sat down for a good ole country dinner together.  Along with Dave’s parents, his spirited grandmother, Mamaw Rhoda, was there.  They called her “Rodie.” She was a strong pioneer woman, kindhearted with a quick witted very good sense of humor.


Mamaw Rhoda “Rodie” Wilson

Although elderly, Rhoda was very able-bodied, lived by herself until she was about 97 years old and kept a nice garden.  Dave was close to his grandmother.  She took care of him throughout his boyhood and he loved spending time with her.  She enjoyed cooking and making hand-pulled taffy which naturally would appeal to a young man.  (Rhoda lived to the ripe old age of 99 years and 7 months.) With Dave’s family living in such a close-knit rural community, it was quite common for them to gather together for dinner just as they did on this occasion.


The dinner was “fried chicken with all the trimmings.” During the meal Sara noticed that Rhoda was eating quite a bit of chicken, but she wondered, “where were the bones?” Well, she soon found out.  When Dave’s mother, Bessie cleared the plates, there they were “UNDER Sara’s plate.” Being a blushing young bride and somewhat nervous in the company of her new in-laws, she became red faced.  But they knew what Mamaw Rhoda had just done and they all began to laugh, putting Sara to ease.

Chicken Bones 2


On another visit Dave’s father, David, discretely slipped a biscuit in Sara’s jacket pocket.


As she was leaving, he asked “What is that in your pocket?” When Sara reached in and came out with a biscuit, he said, “Why didn’t you tell me you were still hungry?”

Sara realized then that she was going to have to watch these folks carefully!  They were real kidders and she really liked that about them.


david-luciousDave’s father, David Lucious Wilson

Our Dear Uncle Abe

Nathan had a brother named Abe. No, his name wasn’t Abraham, and he had a hard time in the service convincing them of that.  They just couldn’t accept that it was just “Abe.”  Actually, he was born in a place called Paint Rock, Alabama and given the name of “Raybon Talmage Wright.”  He legally changed his name to just “Abe” and that is how we all knew him.


He was a bread man after service. He wore a uniform much like the one Jackie Gleason wore as a bus driver. He would bring us fresh bread from the bakery: “yum yum.” 



“Abe, sporting the uniform we remember so well.”

Uncle Abe and his brother, Nathan, could never finish their sentences before the other would answer. It was like Birmingham Brown in the movies (loved that routine). We went to a dime store one day to get a toy sword for our youngest son, Brian.  As we came out with the plastic sword we ran into Uncle Abe.  Using a favorite nickname he had for his brother, he said, “Nate, what are you…” and before he could finish his line, daddy said, “Abe, you spoiled my surprise for your Christmas.”  Then they both just broke into a big laugh.  Not to be outdone, Uncle Abe said  “Well, I got you the same thing.”


The Wrights enjoyed each other every time they were together. There was never a time that they met that there wasn’t lots of laughter and happiness from just being together. What a family!


Abe (center left) and Nathan (center right) were both “sharp dressed men.”


Abe’s paternal grandfather, Ardill, fought in the famous Battle of Chickamauga during the Civil War.

Our Beloved Memphis Cossitt Library

Cossitt Branch Library began its existence as the Cossitt/Goodwyn Institute.

Frederick H. Cossitt, a native of Connecticut, opened a wholesale dry goods business in Memphis. He was very successful and moved on to New York. He kept friends in Memphis and visited often.

He mentioned to Carrington Mason, a business associate, his intention to make a substantial gift for the City of Memphis. It was agreed that a Public Library was needed.

About that time, Mr. Cossitt made a trip to Europe. On this trip, he subsequently became ill and died. He did not mention the gift of a Library in his will. There was only his correspondence and a note stating his intent to give a library to Memphis.

The correspondence and note, of course, were not legally binding. However, his daughters wanted to honor their father’s pledge and plan. Helen Cossitt Julliard, May Cossitt Dodge, and Mr. Thomas Stokes, each gave $25,000 towards the establishment of the new Public Library in Memphis. Mr. Cossitt also left a list of Memphis businessmen of whom he wished to administer the proposed library. On March 8, 1888, the entire $75,000 was delivered to the businessmen and placed in a trust until plans for a public library were completed.

Under the leadership of these select businessmen, a charter was granted by the State of Tennessee on April 6, 1888, under the corporate name of Cossitt Library. It was further decided that the entire $75,000 from the gift should be put into the library building. The City of Memphis promised to furnish “working expenses” for the library and provided a lot overlooking the Mississippi River at the corner of Front Street and Monroe Avenue. Architects were invited to submit designs, and from these Mr. L. B. Wheeler of Atlanta was awarded the contract for the building.

 COSSIT LIBRARY, Memphis, Tennessee (Circa: 1906)cossitt_bwPhoto Courtesy Library of Congress Archives Memphis Tennessee Collectiontn-00106-cccossit-library-memphis-tennessee-postersLINKS:

 Frederick H. Cossitt Library

Frederick H. Cossitt was one of our many Cossitt ancestors who were philanthropists.  He is, perhaps, best known for establishing libraries in Granby, Connecticut and Memphis, Tennessee. 

On December 18, 1811, Frederick Henry Cossitt was born in Granby, Connecticut.  He was the great-great grandson of Rene and Ruth Cossitt who had settled in this area a century earlier.  For the most part, he remained in Granby until 1826 when his father died.  At the request of his uncle, George Germain Cossitt, he bid Granby a final farewell and moved Tennessee.  After being engaged in business ventures in several southern states, he moved to Memphis in 1842 where he carried on a successful wholesale dry goods business.  In 1859 he made his final move which was to New York City.  His business ventures in New York City involved real estate, insurance, and banking.

In 1846 he married Catherine Andrus of Hartford and they had three daughters and one son.  The eldest daughter, Helen married Augustus D. Juilliard of New York City.  They had no children and upon their deaths, (Helen 1916, Augustus 1919) they left over 12 million dollars to create the Juilliard Musical Foundation. 

Prior to Frederick H. Cossitt’s death on September 23, 1887, he had orally expressed a desire to build a library in his birth town of Granby as well as Memphis, Tennessee.  Although this desire was never reduced to writing, his heirs honored his desire and gave $10,000 to the town of Granby and $75,000 to start a library in Memphis.

Four years later, on April 12, 1893, the handsome red sandstone building was dedicated. It was Romanesque in style, with rounded wings, towering turrets, and gables. (Cossitt facts excerpted from Mary Davant’s book, Cossitt Library, 1888-1959).

The Tennessee Library Association bestowed its first Literary Landmark status to the branch in 1998, and honored it with a plaque.

The plaque reads as follows:
Friends of Libraries USALiterary Landmarks Register
Cossitt Library,  33 South Front
In the 1920s Richard Wright (1908-1960) was denied access to the library because of race. A sympathetic white man helped Wright use the library, thus nourishing his dream of becoming a writer. This story is told in Wright’s famous autobiography, Black Boy Tennessee Library Association.  April 15, 1998

Read more about the history and development of the Cossitt Library! Materials can be found in the History Department’s Memphis Room located at the Central Library. For more information, call 415-2742.

Messick High School History

Click link below to listen to:
THE FIRST CONSOLIDATED SCHOOL IN SHELBY COUNTY, was organized in 1908, and composed of the elementary schools of Buntyn, Fleece Station, and Avlon. It was named for the Superintendent of County Schools, Miss Elizabeth Messick, now Mrs. Elizabeth Messick Houck.

The First Principal was Miss Daisy Porter, who served for one year. She was followed by Miss Rubie Batte, who gave fourteen Years to building Messick into the fine school it is today. She left to become County Supervisor. Her place was filled by Miss Nina C. Rickman, who served one year.


In 1923, Mr. Ernest C. Ball , now Superintendent of Memphis City Schools, was made principal and stayed with us until 1928. Under Him Messick grew in importance, being accredited by the Southern Association of College and Secondary Schools, and the State Department of Education. When Mr. Ball left, in mid-term of 1928, Mr. Elliott, finished the school year. He was followed by Miss Fletcher, who held office for one year.

So many fond memories….




In 1930, concurrent with Messick’s change of status from county school to city high school, Mr. T. H. Grinter, coming from Lennox, took over, and has held the chief’s post here for seventeen years, longer than any other principal. He is assisted by Miss Anne Hunt, one of Messick’s mentors since 1918, having served under six principals. Chiefly due to these two, Messick has become what it is today. And if you don’t think Messick is a great school, just ask anyone who goes there.

messick-logo1messick-pic1(Copied from 1948 Messick Annual and

School Daze

sara_young-girlSara was “such a dreamer” in grammar school.

She didn’t feel that it was necessary to listen to the teacher.  She had other “more important things” to think about.  One day, during her third grade. she decided this one test was just too hard to waste her time on, so she drew a beautiful picture on the back of the test, forgetting that she had to turn it in.  And of course, it had an “unfinished test” on the other side.

The teacher immediately sent for Sara’s moma to come to the school, to make her aware of what her daughter was doing in class while her classmates were taking their test. Sara’s mother said, “Well , I look at it this way… they are mine at home and yours up here at school.  You know what should happen to her and I will back you up!”

WOW!  This stunned Sara.  She was terrified, thinking she would get a big whipping with a paddle. Instead, the teacher wisely sat down and explained to her what would happen in life if she grew up “stupid, with no education.” Her words made sense, it clicked in her head and from then on she decided she wanted to “be smart and prove to the teacher that she had a brain.” Her grades went up each year until high school.  She was on the honor roll each quarter or was knee deep in books, studying hard to get there. She learned it only hurt HER if she didn’t make good grades, just as the teacher had explained.

sara_kermit_neva_rob_partySara (left frt), sister Geneva (right frt center) with Kermit and friends!

Sara says, “I tried to get my kids to think that way. One son made an F and he was wanting to join the scouts because he loved the uniform. I bought him the uniform, but told him that he needed to want to bring that F up as much as he wanted to wear that uniform. He brought the grade up to an A on the very next report card. You have to have motivation to do anything well, and that was a good motivation for him: that nice, new uniform.

Moma’s Example on How to Treat Others

Sara_MomaIcy, with daughter Sara, at the old homestead.

“Our moma was so special.” She was good to everyone, no matter what their social status or race.  During an era when racial equality had not yet come to be, she was especially nice to the grocery deliveryman from our local neighborhood store. He was a black man and because of his ethnicity a lot of people were not very kind to him.

Our moma had a heart of gold and was kind to everyone.  When she looked at someone, she just saw another person.  She found out this man’s wife was pregnant and extremely sick, so she went to see what she could do for her.  She watched out for this man’s wife and collected baby clothes for their baby. That man never forgot her kindness.  She was always the first to get her groceries; and if the old panel truck passed us walking to school on a rainy day, he would pick us up for a very welcomed, dry ride to school!

Another time, I recall Moma’s anger at hearing that an ambulance would not pick up a black lady who had fallen and hurt herself on a street close to where we lived.  She was in such a rage over that.  Outraged!

There was a fruit peddler, a black woman, who came around in a cart each week.  When Moma noticed that she loved to wear pretty scarves on her head, she gathered some of our scarves together and gave them to her.  I never saw a bigger smile than the one on that lady’s face that day.

Moma could go out and feed birds in our yard and they would not fly away. They weren’t afraid of her.  They knew a good woman when they saw one. Amazing, strong and wise:  words just cannot “do her justice.” No one had a better mother than we did.

mamaw_wright1“Yes…. no stronger, better woman than Icy.”

Bob Hope Clip: Just for Fun

A real classic… “an oldie but a goodie…”

Most people say the greatest movie line was Clark Gable’s delivery to Vivian Leigh in Gone With the Wind:  ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn’.

But one of the greatest movie lines was Bob Hope’s from a real oldie with Paulette Goddard and Richard Carlson.


The #1 Song When You Were Born?

Do you know what the #1 song was the day you were born?

Go Here:

Messick Alumni


 What have other alumni of Messick been up to?  Here’s one for you….


donald_duck_dunn1959 Messick graduate Donald Dunn

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer DONALD “DUCK” DUNN (Bass Guitar) was the bass player for Booker T. and the MGs at Stax Records where he helped create such hits as “Soul Limbo,” “Hip Hug-Her” and “Time Is Tight.”

During his time at Stax, Dunn became known as one of the major architects of the classic Memphis sound, playing on such hits as “I?ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “Respect” and “(Sitting On) The Dock Of The Bay” for Otis Redding, “In The Midnight Hour” for Wilson Pickett, “You Don?t Know Like I Know,” “Hold On, I?m Comin” and “Soul Man” for Sam and Dave, as well as three albums for Albert King.

Most of Dunn?s work mentioned above was done with Steve Cropper. Their musical collaboration and friendship dates back to their high school days in Memphis where they had their first hit, “Last Night,” as members of The Mar-Keys.

Other artists Dunn has accompanied include Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Elvis Presley, Levon Helm, Rod Stewart, Joan Baez and Leon Russell.

Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn appears on the following albums:

  1. Briefcase Full of Blues (1978)
  2. The Blues Brothers (Music from the Soundtrack) (1980)
  3. Made in America (1980)
  4. Otis, Onions And The Blues (1988)
  5. The Blues Brothers Band Live in Montreux (1990)
  6. Red, White, & Blues (1992)
  7. Blues for You (1992)
  8. Blues Brothers 2000 Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1997)
  9. Blues Brothers and Friends (Live from Chicago’s HOB) (1997)
Jim Rout attended 10 different Memphis City Schools before graduating from Messick High School in 1960. He served as Shelby County Mayor from 1994 to 2002.

More on Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn:


As a member of Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Famers Booker T. & The MGs, Donald “Duck” Dunn was house bass player at the legendary Soul/R’n’B label, Stax, where his meaty playing helped define one of the most distinctive and enduring sounds in popular music. Among the timeless recordings Dunn held down the bottom end of, are Respect, Dock Of The Bay and I’ve Been Loving You Too Long, by Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett’s In The Midnight Hour, and Hold On I’m Coming by Sam and Dave, not to mention sessions with Neil Young, Eric Clapton and Jerry Lee Lewis.Donald “Duck” Dunn

Today, Dunn keeps the classic Stax sound alive and kicking as part of The Blues Brothers Band. Originally hand picked by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd – the Jake and Elwood characters in cult film, The Blues Brothers.

“I like to keep things spontaneous,” says Dunn of their live show. “That’s my way of playing. Even though we’re playing the same songs every night I like to think I can change it a little bit and use my input or creativity or whatever in any way that makes the band feel better. If I make the band smile, I make everybody smile.”

Born in Memphis in late November, 1941, Dunn was given his nickname by his father as the two watched a Donald Duck cartoon on TV.  “It was just one of those things that stuck,” he recalls.  “Most of my school friends and even a few of my teachers called me Duck.”

Although a grandfather he never knew played fiddle, there was no music in Duck’s immediate family. “My father was a candy maker. He made peppermints and hard candies. He didn’t want me to go into the music industry. He thought I would become a drug addict and die. Most parents in those days thought music was a pastime; something you did as a hobby, not a profession.” Duck tried to conform: “I worked for my dad in the candy factory for a while. I also had a job with an electrical company repairing long range air raid sirens.” In his heart, though, Dunn always knew where his talents lay. I picked up a ukulele when I was about 10 and I started playing bass when I was 16. I tried the guitar but it had two strings too many. It was just too complicated, man! Plus, I grew up with Steve Cropper. There were so many good guitar players another one wasn’t needed. What was needed was a bass. I mostly learned just by listening to records. I don’t know how to explain it but I knew if I could do it, I’d be good at it! My first bass was a new Kay, one of the cheaper models.”

And, of course, it was slightly less than Duck wanted. Smiling at the memory, he adds: “When I used to look in the music store windows and see the Fenders hanging there, I was like a kid at Christmas. The Kay was fine but you knew if you could get your hands on a Fender you would do better. I bought my first Fender in ’58 and I still have it at home. I lost it once and I got it back,” he pauses. “It’s a Precision, with a maple neck. I just always took it for granted, never worried about the setting or action. It was a Fender, man, I didn’t care!”

Influenced by blues and R’n’B stars like BB King and Ray Charles, Dunn and Cropper formed their first band, The Royal Spades, in high school. “The name came from poker; a royal spade flush,” explains Duck. “We played anything from Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard to Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley stuff. We were a white band trying to play rhythm and blues music, kinda the first in Memphis to do that. We used to play for, like, five dollars and a few free beers. It was just a joy to play.”

The Royal Spades evolved into the Mar-Keys, who had a hit with Last Night soon after Dunn graduated from high school. Cropper subsequently left the band to become a full-time session musician at the Stax studio. He urged Dunn to follow him and the two became part of Booker T’s MGs, which in turn become the house band at Stax.

“I would have liked to have been on the road more but the record company wanted us in the studio. Man, we were recording almost a hit a day for a while there. But I never knew how popular that music was until I came to England with Otis Redding in 1967.” He adds with a chuckle: “I think most of the English people thought I was a pick-up bass player. Without being racist they probably thought that being affiliated with that music, Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn was black!”

What else does he remember of that visit? “Otis would follow Sam and Dave and he would peak through the curtain during their set, worried as he could be, to see if he could outdo Sam and Dave. I used to watch him do that every night! Before that tour, though, we were all in admiration of Motown. We were thinking why don’t our records sound like Motown? Now we listen to them and they hold up real well today.”

Like many recognisable sounds from Sun to Motown, the Stax sound evolved by happy accident from a blend of musicians who worked well together. “Everyone contributed,” remembers Duck. “Sometimes, if I couldn’t find something to play maybe Booker found the bass line. Or maybe Steve Cropper. It was a real family-orientated company. No one had any particular ego. We were a
real team.”

In many instances, plenty of song riffs and rhythms famously emerged from spontaneous jam sessions on the play-out of the previous recording. “When we came to the fade-outs, almost everyone would change their rhythm or the notes they were playing. That was the fun part of it. When we got to the end we all knew we could relax and do what we wanted to do.”

In common with most musicians from that era, the people who created the Stax sound came away with less money than they deserved. “I always look back and say I should have made more,” sighs Duck, slowly. “It should have been more lucrative, but it wasn’t. We were cheated a little bit. But with the music and what I learned… it doesn’t matter. I have no regrets.”

One session that stands out for Dunn was backing Jerry Lee Lewis on his early ’70s soul slanted album, Southern Roots. The sessions have passed into rock lore as a four day drug-soaked party with hangers-on passing out on the studio floor and the world and his wife sitting in.

“It was just craziness!” concurs Duck. “All it needed was Keith Richard! One song I particularly remember was When A Man Loves A Woman. If you listen to that record, he’s incredible. And that was one take. Jerry Lee is crazy, he’s outrageous, but I think he’s the best rock’n’roller that ever lived.”

Dunn’s greatest pleasure, however, came from the music he created with the MGs. Having scored a million seller with the instrumental Green Onions in 1962, the band continued to hit the charts well into the ’70s. Among their biggest successes were Hang ‘Em High and Time Is Tight, both from movie soundtracks, also Soul Limbo, a Caribbean-styled number later to become very familiar as the cowbell-intro’d theme tune of the BBC’s test cricket coverage.

When Booker T. disbanded the MGs and left Memphis for California, Dunn and drummer Al Jackson, Jr., kept the band’s name afloat with an album, MG’s, although it was released to little interest. In autumn 1975, Jackson was shot dead when he disturbed an intruder in his home. The incident left a deep impression on Dunn, who today opines: “I think the gun issue is the biggest issue. When I came to England in 1967 and saw the bobbies, as they used to call them, with no firearms… That’s the way it should be. I’m really a firm believer in no guns.”

1977 saw the first of several reunions of Booker T. Jones, Dunn and Cropper and the band recorded two more albums during the next 20 years, eventually receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1995 Rhythm & Blues Pioneer Awards. Since his appearance in the hit 1980 movie The Blues Brothers, Dunn has also been part of popular R’n’B revue, The Blues Brothers Band, which also features Steve Cropper. Of his lifelong musical relationship with Cropper, Dunn says: “Steve and I are like married people. I can look at him and know what he’ll order for dinner. We don’t hang out as much as we used to. I moved to Florida and he moved to Nashville. We used to play a lot of golf together and we’ve kind of separated. But when we play music together we both know where we’re going.”

Donald “Duck” Dunn, Booker T, Steve Cropper and Anton (August 2003)

Another link:


Duck’s the greatest. When I first started recording the producers would say try to sound like like Duck, do it like Duck does. he had a really big impact on us.
– David Hood (Muscle Shoals studio bassist)

Duck’s lines are classic. He proves that you don’t need to play a lot of notes to make a statement. His bass lines move the song without a lot of fuss.

Whenever someone asks for a place to start improving his bass playing skills, I point him to the book What Duck Done. While none of the line are in tab format (this is a good excuse to learn to read music) many of Duck’s lines are easy for a beginner to pick up, and this book makes up an essential part of any bass player’s vocabulary.

Duck’s use of the 6th is an important part of my musical vocabulary. Their prominent use on songs like Mr. Pitiful, I Can’t Turn You Loose, and Soul Man, and the feeling he plays them with are great tools to reach for. I actually consider my learning to use the 6th an important part of my musical development.