Rural Missouri - February 2013 - (Page 36)

N E I G H B O R S Blessed from birth Mildred Whitehorn used her gifts to become a singing sensation woman behind the microphone. “When I was singing R&B, I was just singing,” Mildred says. “But when I sing gospel, it’s what I feel, it really is. Someong before the world ever heard times you just cry right through a song.” of pop music star Sheryl Crow, She says it was never her intention to another woman from Kennett was be an R&B singer. “When I signed a record working her way up the charts. contract, my intention was to get a gosMost people won’t remember the name pel contract later,” Mildred relates. “But Veda Brown. But in the early 1970s, the of course, once you signed on the dotted woman from Kennett was a singing sensaline, they do what they want to with you. tion, seemingly destined for greatness as a After my first two hits, they knew what rhythm and blues singer. was best for me.” Veda Brown was the stage name for Ironically, Mildred recorded only three Mildred Whitehorn, born Mildred Pulgospel songs in her career as a recording lium in 1949. The name was a combinaartist. But today, people in the Bootheel tion of her mother’s maiden name with know her more for her church music than a first name picked by the record label’s for her professional career, which came to secretaries. an end in 1981. The music Mildred was belting out When Stax went bankrupt and her in her hard-hitting, high-pitched voice career began to fade, Mildred let it go. She was not what she started out singing as had other God-given talents, including a a child growing up in Deering. She came love for fixing hair. The oldest of 12 chilfrom a family of churchgoers. Her father dren, Mildred grew up braiding the hair was a preacher at churches in Portageville of her younger siblings, along with some and Lilbourn, and he always began his cousins her mother helped raise. sermons with a song. For 15 years, she owned and operated Growing up in a family that sang blues the Golden Comb Beauty Salon in Kenand gospel, Mildred began singing at an nett. She stopped when cramps in her early age. “I remember the first time I ever hands made it hard for her to create the sang in church,” she says. “We used to tight plaits and cornrows her clients loved. have a group at church called The SunMildred also got back to her roots as a shine Band. I remember one Christmas gospel singer, performing for small churchwe were having a program. The director es and huge church gatherings of more of the choir called me up to sing a solo. than 75,000 people. She also led a choir People enjoyed it so much. I was hooked that numbered more than 100 people and from that moment on. Even though I had won a contest on the Black Entertainment butterflies as big as chickens, I absolutely Television network. loved it.” Avoiding the pitfalls of drugs and Mildred was 8 when she sang that first alcohol that claimed so many musicians, solo. It would not be her last. One Sunday Mildred Whitehorn, better known as Veda Brown by her fans, charted Mildred enjoyed a wonderful family life, she performed with a choir from Kennett, several hits during her short career as a rhythym and blues singer. Today, including three kids and 38 years of marsinging a gospel song called “Sweeping she still wows audiences with her heartfelt renditions of gospel favorites. riage to her high school sweetheart, James Through the City.” Whitehorn. “He’s the first man I ever “I turned the program out,” Mildred kissed,” Mildred tells. men weren’t treating them right. says of the response to her voice. “That’s when I Along the way, she was a master artist in the Her next hit, “Don’t Start Lovin’ Me (If You’re knew I was going to be a star.” Missouri Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. Gonna Stop),” topped out at No. 87 in 1974. It While attending school in Gobler when she This program helps masters pass along their skills was described as “one of the heaviest pieces of was 14, Mildred was asked to sing every day by to apprentices. Mildred served as a master in two soul put out by Stax in the 1970s” by one soul one of her teachers, who she says just liked to disciplines, gospel singing and hair braiding. music website. hear her voice. Her big break came when she She’s considering embarking on a third career She toured extensively, co-starring with anothanswered an ad for a singer from a local rock ’n’ that will involve another of her many skills, er Stax artist, Johnnie Taylor. She roll group called The Decisions. She toured as the cooking. She hopes to combine the soul food shared a recording band with Isaac group’s lead singer and recorded with them begintechniques passed down from her mother Hayes and crossed paths with the ning in the late 1960s. with her own love of barbecue. likes of Elvis Presley, who recorded Those recordings — and some help from Ken“I did my first love and it turned out nett radio station disc jockey Larry Robinson — three albums at Stax’s Memphis studio. OK,” she says. “I did my second love, Artists recording for Stax shared a brought her to Stax Records in Memphis where and it turned out exactly the way I similar sound with the rival Motown she signed a contract in 1971. Her first record, wanted it. But now I am on my third label, only grittier and more “muddy “Living a Life without Love,” was released in love, and I am hoping for the best.” 1972. Later came “I Know it’s Not Right (To Be In blues” as Mildred puts it. Her music was Kennett Love with a Married Man).” typical of the fight-to-hold-on-to-your• You can find many of Mildred’s songs by In 1973, her third release became her most sucman songs of the era, and Mildred could searching for Veda Brown on www.Youhold her own with any of the R&B divas of the cessful single, rising to No. 34 on Billboard’s R&B or in the iTunes music store. time. But the music didn’t even resemble the chart. “Short Stopping” spoke to women whose L 36 by Jim McCarty WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2013

Rural Missouri - February 2013
Table of Contents
A lasting tribute
Preparing for the worst
Whittling wildlife
Out of the Way Eats
Our history with Missouri’s future leaders
Hearth and Home
The cowboy way of life
Co-ops care
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - February 2013