Sunday, April 24, 2011


Today is Easter Sunday. This morning, I started thinking back to years past when my mother, Betty “Big Mama” Rankin, hosted the Moldy Fig Jam every Saturday morning on WWOZ radio. She showcased the best of traditional New Orleans jazz, and did so with love.

On the day before Easter, she always threw in a heaping helping of hymns played in the New Orleans style, and she saved a little time to play some Mahalia Jackson. For Big Mama, it made sense to pay tribute to the Lord by sharing one of the most glorious voices He ever created—a native voice that bridged the gap between the sacred and the secular souls. Playing Mahalia also educated the listeners as to the roots of the jazz they so loved.

So every year Big Mama played some Mahalia, and every year, like clockwork, some ignorant jerk would call the station and complain. Typically, the faceless voice on the phone would declare that if he wanted to hear that $&@ gospel !*%#, he would tune in the next day to hear the gospel show; he wanted to hear real jazz.

Big Mama was not the kind of person who could easily shrug off the meaness of others. She always left the studio in tears. But within hours her tears of sadness would turn to … well, not exactly anger; I’d call it determination. She’d immediately start planning out her Easter show for the next year. And there would be one more Mahalia Jackson song than she played that year.

I learned a lot from my mother.

Happy Easter.


Anonymous Lujene G. Clark said...

What a beautiful legacy. Happy and Blessed Easter to the Rankin clan!

4/24/11, 1:29 PM  
Blogger Ginger Taylor said...

God Bless determined women.

Happy Easter my friends.

4/24/11, 2:09 PM  
Blogger Wade Rankin said...

Thanks Lujene and Ginger.

First you cry a little; then you work the problem.

4/24/11, 2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This one's for Big Mama!

Thanks for sharing, Wade,
Mary Webster

4/24/11, 6:27 PM  
Blogger Wade Rankin said...

Perfect, Miss Mary!

4/24/11, 8:54 PM  
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