Rubin Lacy was one of the most talented and influential artists in Mississippi blues during his short career as a secular performer. The grandson of a minister, Lacy was born in Pelahatchie on January 2, 1901. He was a well-known blues performer in the Jackson area and the Delta until 1932, when he put his guitar down and became a preacher. In the 1950s he moved to California, where he died on November 14, 1969. He is buried in Pelahatchie.
Although Rubin “Rube” Lacy recorded only a handful of blues songs, he played an important role in the formative years of Mississippi blues. Lacy learned to play the guitar and mandolin by emulating George “Crow Jane” Hendrix, a multi-instrumentalist who led a string band in Pelahatchie. As a young man Lacy traveled widely, and among his experiences were meeting country music pioneer Jimmie Rodgers while both were railway workers, and working in Chicago with an uncle from Germany who taught Lacy to speak German fluently. After moving back to the Jackson area, where he became known as the “blues king,” Lacy played in an elite circle that included Son Spand, Ishmon Bracey, Tommy Johnson, Charlie McCoy, and Walter Vinson. He later moved to the Delta, where he formed his own group, performed with Charley Patton, and inspired artists including Son House, Tommy McClennan, and Honeyboy Edwards.
Lacy made four recordings for Columbia Records at a session in Memphis in December 1927, but none were released. The following March he traveled to Chicago, where he recorded two songs for the Paramount label, “Mississippi Jail House Groan” and “Ham Hound Crave,” both of which he learned from Hendrix. Accompanying Lacy on the trip was music talent agent Ralph Lembo of Itta Bena, who contributed a spoken part to “Ham Hound Crave.” The two Paramount tracks, the only blues recordings by Lacy that were ever released, are considered such prime examples of Mississippi blues that both songs have appeared on numerous reissue CDs and LPs around the world.
Following a train-related injury in 1932 Lacy decided to join the ministry, a path followed at times by fellow Mississippi bluesmen of his generation, including House, Skip James, Ishmon Bracey, Skip James, and Robert Wilkins. Lacy preached in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri before relocating to California. In1966 blues scholar David Evans located Lacy in Ridgecrest, California, and recorded him preaching and performing gospel songs together with members of his congregation. Although Lacy would no longer perform blues, he remained proud of his early recordings and suggested to Evans that the religiously devout feel the blues “quicker than a sinner do, ‘cause the average sinner ain’t got nothing to worry about.”
Lacy was one of a number of blues performers born in Rankin County. Others included Luther and Percy Huff, Shirley Griffith, John Henry “Bubba” Brown, Tommy Lee Thompson, Othar Turner, Elmore James, Jessie “Little Howlin’ Wolf” Sanders, and Pelahatchie native Lefty “Leroy” Bates. Griffith, Bates, and some of Lacy’s children later moved to Indianapolis, Indiana.*
*Note: Although Lacy's death certificate gave Pelahatchie as his burial site, we have since learned from his son John L. Lacy that he was buried in Bakersfield, California.
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