Greenwood Soul Mates — Mississippi Marshall
What is “soul”?
For us, “soul” represents the unique essence each person contributes to their community, weaving a colorful tapestry of stories, talents, cultural experiences and more. In Greenwood, this tapestry is formed by numerous unique individuals who embody the city’s mantra – “Delta Spirit, Southern Soul”. Their captivating stories and deep connections to the region’s food, music and history define our identity as a town and make Greenwood such an extraordinary place to visit. These remarkable individuals are our “Soul Mates”.
Today, we introduce Mississippi Marshall, a Cleveland, Mississippi, musician who has been delighting visitors and the people of Greenwood with his blues music for years.
“Hey, how are ya?” Mississippi Marshall asks with the kindness of an old friend. It’s how he’s bound to start any conversation, whether you’ve known him for a minute or a lifetime, an inherent friendliness and warmth radiates to those in his presence.
Marshall Hopper is a musician from Cleveland, Mississippi, who is more than worthy of his stage name, Mississippi Marshall. He’s lived all over the state but eventually settled down and grew roots in Tallahatchie County, not too far outside of Greenwood, where he’s been playing music for 35 years. Marshall is a musician through and through, a gifted guitarist, singer, and songwriter who can play anything and everything from country to rock, but of course, he’s most well-known for his soulful Delta blues.
“Being from the Delta, blues seems to be the go-to for sure. It’s the music of the region, so whether you’re a tourist or a local, it’s the music that you’re bound to hear around here. I play the blues all across the Delta, but in Greenwood, I usually play at the Alluvian Hotel.”
It’s at the Alluvian that Marshall’s become most well-known and beloved to the people of Greenwood, as he’s become a noteworthy staple at the hotel’s Thursday night happy hour get-together. And it’s also at the Alluvian where Marshall most recently made a truly exciting encounter with southern musician and winner of Season 5 of American Idol, Taylor Hicks.
“I did a Thursday show at the Alluvian, where he was staying before his show on Friday. He came in, we spoke briefly, and he found out that I was going to be opening his show the next day, so he asked me if I wanted to get up and play a tune with him before he performed. Of course, I said yes! It was a lot of fun and a really great moment in my lifetime of playing music.”
The road to opportunities like this has been a long one, but for Marshall, music just comes naturally.
“We had a real musical family growing up. My dad was a guitar player. My dad’s brother, Uncle Bill, played bass guitar. My Aunt Dorothy played guitar and sang. And for a long time, I played the drums. With a family band, after a while you start getting the excitement of playing for people, it just kind of sticks with you. Now, here I am at 63-years-old and I’m still out here doing just that.”
To Marshall, music is all about connecting with people; it’s why he goes out on stages across the Delta multiple times a week. Even more than that, he finds a healing power to it.
“Music has a therapeutic effect. It takes you to a place that you can’t go otherwise. Live music, especially in the Delta, provides an excitement I don’t think anything else [like listening to the radio or watching TV] can replace.”
It’s clear from how he talks that Mississippi Marshall has a deep passion for music, one that he hopes to instill in his audiences and within his familial legacy. To him, one of the most rewarding aspects of his career lately has been performing with his 18-year-old grandson, Grayson.
Of course, at the end of the day, he always manages to find his way back to the Delta and to Greenwood. When asked about the “soul” of the city, Marshall said:
“The ‘soul’ is that there’s such a charming, small-town feel here. A closeness between neighbors, and Southern hospitality and comfort. Greenwood is a great place to live, and it’s still rolling to this day.”
It’s a soul that he’s been more than happy to contribute to, becoming another integral piece of Greenwood’s unique cultural tapestry.
“Because I play mostly blues music, I believe I bring authenticity and provide a representation of what Greenwood had to offer in the older days that is still appreciated now. Blues just feeds your soul, makes you happy when you’re sad, and sad when you’re happy. It won’t make you rich when you’re poor, but it is healing. And I think I have a pretty good following in Greenwood not just because I’m a musician, but because I’m their friend. I’m easy to talk to, I encourage you to introduce yourself, and if you don’t, I’ll take the initiative!”
And, of course, he doesn’t want to be the only one. Marshall spoke emphatically about his support for other musicians coming in and bringing their own soul to Greenwood’s music scene.
“I hope to help pave the way for more musicians to play here in Greenwood and all the small towns across the Delta. Music is a healer, and the more of it we have, the more connected our community will be.”
That’s why, with surely a smile on his face, Mississippi Marshall would describe Greenwood in one word as “enjoyable.”