“Narmour and Smith: A Carroll County Story,” pt. 2

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This is a part 2 of a newspaper article, begun here.

Several tunes bear the root, “Charleston”, referring not to the type of tune, but to a town in neighboring Tallahatchie County, Miss., and “Carroll County Blues” came because Narmour and Smith thought it appropriate to name one of the tunes for where they lived.  To Carroll Countians Narmour and Smith were true, and at home their fame never waned. It would be the connoisseurs and the record collectors in decades to come, however, who would rediscover the old Narmour and Smith recordings and assure their niche in American music history. Among those are Joe Bussard of Frederick, Md., whose 25,000-piece collection includes most of the N & S records as well as early records by the partners’ neighbor, John Hurt, who became internationally known after a blues historian named Tom Hoskins found him in 1963.

Narmour and Smith were responsible for Hurt’s first brush with the record industry, recommending their neighbor when talent scouts asked them if they knew any good black guitarists.  In 1963 it was too late for Narmour’s second chance. He had a minor stroke in the mid-1950s and a massive stroke killed him March 24, 1961. He was born March 22, 1889.

During his exploratory trip into Mississippi in the 1960s Hoskins spoke with Smith, who had been working as custodian at nearby Valley High School, a country school that closed in the late 1960s. It was also too late for Smith, whose “boomchang” guitar underscores his and Narmour’s now-precious recordings. Smith, born Nov. 26, 1895, died Aug. 28, 1968.  Their graves are marked by modest headstones in cemeteries along the road from Valley.

Narmour, whose day to day work included driving a school bus, farming, and in the 1930s, running a mechanic’s garage at Avalon, is buried in the old Pisgah Cemetery alongside his widow, Velma Carroll Narmour, who died in 1978. Smith is buried in Moore’s Memorial Cemetery behind Pisgah Church. His widow, Lillian Kirby, died April 17, 1985 and is buried next to him.

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