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Huntington Calls it a Wonderful Blues Festival
Saturday, August 24, 2013 - 21:19 Photos by Jim Ellis
A PROCLAMATION OF THE MAYOR OF HUNTINGTON:
WHEREAS: Mary Smith McClain, also known as “Diamond Teeth Mary” was born in Huntington, WV on August 28, 1902. She hopped her first train out of town at modern-day Heritage Station when she was just 13.
WHEREAS: Diamond Teeth Mary, was one of the last of the old "blues shouters" from the medicine and minstrel show days performing in such troupes as the “Davis S. Bell Medicine Show,” “Irwin C. Miller’s Brown Skin Models,” and 11 years as the featured singer for the now notorious “Rabbit Foot Minstrels.”
WHEREAS: Diamond Teeth Mary went on to be billed as "the Queen of the Blues" at such venues as the Cotton Club, the Apollo Theatre, the White House, the Smithsonian, and Carnegie Hall. She shared the stage with such notables as Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, Big Mama Thornton, and her step-sister Bessie Smith.
WHEREAS: Diamond Teeth Mary contributed to the WWII effort by entertaining American troops on bases around the world as part of the USO tour with Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie.
WHEREAS: Diamond Teeth Mary performed at Carnegie Hall and the White House, starred in a Smithsonian documentary about medicine shows called “Free Show Tonight” and an off-broadway show based on the film, toured Europe, and sang for President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration…all after the age of 80-years-old.
WHEREAS: Diamond Teeth Mary always loved Huntington and lovingly referred to it as her home. She returned to perform here many times throughout her 84 years in show business, she even recorded an album here in 1989. As per her request, her ashes were spread on the railroad tracks at Heritage Station in Huntington where she hopped her first train.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, STEVE WILLIAMS, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF HUNTINGTON, CABELL AND WAYNE COUNTIES, do hereby proclaim that Eleventh Street from Third Avenue to Veteran's Memorial Boulevard shall be known as
Diamond Teeth Mary Way
in the City of Huntington and encourage all people, businesses, organizations and institutions to join in honoring this distinguished individual.
IN WITNESS THEREOF, I hereunto set my hand and cause the Great Seal of the City of Huntington to be affixed this twenty-fourth day of August in the year of Our Lord Two Thousand Thirteen.
Steve Williams, Mayor (Proclamation photo, Aaron Michael Fox, Mayor's Office)