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He's Got a Right to Spin the Blues : Deejay Early Wright is a folk legend in Mississippi

January 01, 1989|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

"People tend to forget the amazing diversity of performers who were spawned in the Delta," said Bill Ferris, who runs the University of Mississippi's Center for the Study of Southern Culture. "Sam Cooke was from here. Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. Ike Turner. Aretha Franklin too--her father, Rev. C. L. Franklin, moved from here to Detroit.

"And virtually all of those people were first played on the radio by Early Wright. It's impossible to overestimate the importance of radio in giving that kind of music the exposure it needed to develop and survive."

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Wright tapped the palms of his hands on his knees, trying to explain how he's lasted 41 years, keeping both his audience and his advertisers happy. "I can't imagine having any other job," he said quietly. "Blues gets in your bloodstream and you can't get it out. I just try to do the best I can each day--and then I try to do better the next time."

Wright was back on the air, offering expert testimony for the Clarksdale Pawn Shop. Down the hall, an elderly WROX night guard was directing a visitor back to Highway 61.

"The thing people don't understand is that no one knows how to sell ads like Early Wright," the guard said, limping down the corridor. "He's got customers that've been with him for 20 years, 30 years. Maybe more. They never take their business anywhere else."

He said proudly: "The only way Early's ever lost a customer is if they died."

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