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Mayfield captures Blues in new book Featured


They say everyone has a story to tell.
For photographer and author Panny Flautt Mayfield that story is told in images, over 200 of them.
Those photographs, spanning almost an entire lifetime, grew into a book.
Mayfield’s book “Live, From the Mississippi Delta” will be the topic of her presentation at the Lunch With Books series at noon Thursday at the Robinson-Carpenter Memorial Library in Cleveland.
“I never intended to write a book. I’ve just always taken pictures,” said Mayfield. “I got a brownie (camera) when I was about 12-years-old and I just loved to take photos when I went somewhere. My father believed in traveling a lot, so I had plenty of opportunity.”
Mayfield was the editor of her high school newspaper and also worked as the editor for the paper at her Alma Mater, the University of Mississippi.
From there her passion for print media became a career.
Mayfield worked as a journalist for various newspapers and magazines and served as public relations director for Coahoma Community College.
During her career as a journalist, Mayfield won awards from numerous organizations, including the Mississippi Press Association, The Associated Press and the Mississippi Film Commission.
But she never stopped taking pictures and some of her early work involved taking portfolio pictures for musicians at performances in local juke joints.
“Growing up I knew there were juke joints but I was never allowed to go; my parent would have locked me up and thrown away the key,” said Mayfield with a laugh.
Her time in these places led her to a deeper passion for the Blues and over the years she had a chance to befriend many of the people she was photographing.
This collection of pictures eventually became the basis for her book.
“I have had a number of exhibits across the Delta and in Europe. I’ve been assembling photos for years. It was actually my friend Molly Porter who really pushed me to turn them into a book,” said Mayfield.
When Mayfield initially submitted her book to the University Press of Mississippi in Jackson, it was strictly a photography collection.
“When I sent it to them, they really liked the idea and the pictures, but they wanted stories to go with the photos,” explained Mayfield.
Fortunately, her experience in journalism and the relationships she had developed with the people in many of the pictures made this possible for Mayfield.
Mayfield spent about a year and reworked her original idea for a coffee table book into “Live From the Mississippi Delta.”
The book begins with an introduction from one of the men who is featured in the book, legendary rock-and-roll musician Robert Plant.
Mayfield first met Plant and his Led Zeppelin band-mate Jimmy Page at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale.
“I was at the museum, just looking around. They asked if I knew anyone who could show them around the Delta, so I volunteered. I drove them to see Sonny Boy Williams’ grave, out to Friar’s Point, and I showed them the Crossroads. They ended up inviting me to their concert in Memphis and I had the chance to photograph them when they played in the Pyramid,” recalled Mayfield.
Plant also helped to pay for the W.C. Handy blues trail marker in her hometown of Tutwiler.
“Tutwiler is the home of the Blues; it’s where W.C. Handy first heard blues music. For years people were frustrated that all of these other towns had Blues Trail markers and we didn’t have one in Tutwiler. I talked to Robert about it, and he said, ‘We’ll have to do something about that.’ He came down from Nashville and spoke at the unveiling as well. His only condition was that we didn’t tell anyone he was coming,” explained Mayfield.
International celebrities, like Plant and Page, aren’t the only type of musicians featured in Mayfield’s book.
“I have a whole chapter on what I call homegrown icons.”
That chapter features people like Wade Walton and Early Wright.
Other chapters explore topics such as local blues festivals, juke joints, and gospel music.
Mayfield will talk more about her book and experiences at the library.
The event is free and soft drinks will be provided.

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