By John Surratt, The Vicksburg Post
The music industry and the blues community lost one of its more talented members with the death of recording artist and Vicksburg native Terry Evans on Jan. 20.
Born in Vicksburg in 1937, Evans was known as a songwriter and blues artist who recorded songs with guitarist Ry Cooder, John Fogerty, John Lee Hooker and Boz Scaggs, and wrote songs for Pops Staples and Louis Jordan.
He wrote and performed the song “Down in Mississippi” for the movie “Crossroads.”
Evans began his musical career in Vicksburg with the a cappella group, The Knights.
“He always did have a great voice, but nobody knew that until later on,” said musician and friend Jimmy Russell.
“Terry was first tenor (for The Knights) and he had a beautiful tenor voice. That was when doo-wop was going, and they had a first tenor, second tenor, baritone and bass and a lead singer, and they were fantastic.
“I was involved with a vocal group here, but out of the two vocal groups they were the best group, no doubt about that.”
Russell moved to Los Angeles in 1961, and Evans followed the next year.
“We were roommates until he got married,” Russell said. “We started to sing together along with Jewel Akens, the guy that led the song, ‘The Birds and the Bees.’ There were four of us, Akens, Terry Evans, Thomas Turner and me. We formed the Turnarounds and made records for Kent Records and toured across the country and then worked the clubs from Washington, D.C., to Miami, and recorded backup for other artists.”
Evans, he said, developed his blues skills while writing songs, and later formed his own group and began touring, going to Europe and performing there.
“He went there one or two times a year,” Russell said.
Vicksburg Blues Society president Shirley Waring, who also knew Evans, said “he was gentleman, sincere; enormously talented. His vocal skills ended up being a surprise for everyone, because he had been writing for so long. But he had a very unique style. He could do all kinds of things with his voice.”
When Evans would come to Vicksburg to perform, “We did a couple of shows with him, and he would invite his friends and family from the area. It was always a lot of fun to have him perform in a familiar environment.”
Russell recalled the last time he saw his friend.
“I went to visit Terry in California six months ago and stayed at his house. We had a good time.” After the visit, he said, Evans left to tour in Europe and suffered a serious illness when he returned.
“I spoke with him while he was in the hospital, and he told me, ‘I want you to come see me when I get back home,’ but he never was able to come back home.”