When Dusty Rainey drives home to Duck Hill, he is reminded of how much his father meant to his home community by the newly-completed mural featuring the town’s most famous natives. Rainey’s father, Curley Rainey, was a member of the Duck Hillbillies, a bluegrass group that gained much notoriety around the region.
The mural highlights Duck Hill’s own legends – Chief Duck, Memphis film censor Lloyd Binford, gospel composer Lucie Campbell, the Duck Hillbillies, and the internationally-popular Grassroots Blues Festival. The mural speaks to parts of the town’s history.
Rainey’s father Curley Rainey was a member of the Duck Hillbillies, and Rainey said he remembers listening to his dad and his group practice when he was just a toddler. Music has always been an essential part of the Rainey family.
He said his parents met because his mother was a member of his uncle’s bluegrass group. When they needed a fiddle player, his uncle hired Curley Rainey. The rest is history.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for music,” Rainey said. “[The Duck Hillbillies] were well-known, but they weren’t well-known, if that makes sense.”
He said his father and the group didn’t really record their own records, but they played with quite a few famous names.
“I didn’t even know who all he played behind, he never talked about it. I didn’t really know until I got older [and learned] he played with Elvis Presley. I asked him why he didn’t tell me, he said ‘Oh, it didn’t come up,’” Rainey said.
Rainey said that when his father wasn’t performing with the Duck Hillbillies, he was a house mover. Rainey said music took his father many places, but he always remained humble.
With tears in his eyes, Rainey said to drive by and look at the mural reminds him of his father and that makes him smile.
“I miss my old man,” he said. “My mom died when I was 18. Cancer got her, and it was the three of us and dad.”
He said out of his siblings, he’s the only one who is carrying on his father’s legacy.
“I never got to play with my old man, I wish I had done it,” he said.
Rainey explained by music is so special. “Music is universal. It brings people together. I can hear a song and start singing it, and you can hear the same song and join in. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, and purple. Music unites us, music is therapy.”
He said music is a bond that holds all of us together, because we may differ in opinions but music is what connects us. “There can be a gospel group playing, and I can get in and play with them, or a blues group. I may not be the best, but I can play with them. Or it may be the other way around, I’m playing and they can pick up and play with me,” Rainey said.
Duck Hill has certainly solidified its place in the world with the talent that comes from the little town down Highway 51.
“We have one of the biggest blues shows right here in Duck Hill. People come from all over just to come play at the Grassroots Blues Festival,” Rainey said. “We have the Bogue Creek Festival and people come from all over just to come play at the festival, right here in Duck Hill.”
Building owner Wallace Myles said he allowed the mural to be painted on his building because it attracts people to the area, just to take a look. He said people will be traveling on Highway 51 and just stop to see the mural.
Al White, executive director of Action Communication and Education Reform, said the mural was funded in part by a grant from the Mississippi Hills Alliance Heritage Area and Action Communication and Education Reform (Project CAM).
“The mural depicts the logo of the Grassroots Blues Festival, Gospel Composer Lucie Campbell, Chief Duck, Lloyd T Binford, and the Duck Hill Billies. The mural is part of the Duck Hill Tourism and Development Council Tourism Trail,” White said.
White said the next project is to secure a Freedom Trail Marker honoring the families who participated in the Historical "Poor People Campaign" also known as the Mule Train.