Mumford Bean

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Mumford Bean

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 Given name:     Charles
 Middle name:     Mumford
 Family name:     Bean
 Place of birth:     Itawambia County, Mississippi
 Place of death:     South Bend, Indiana
 Year of birth:     1915
 Year of death:     
 Profile:     Musician
 Source of information:     https://archive.org/stream/jemfquarterlyser1972john/jemfquarterlyser1972john djvu.txt
     

Biographical notes[edit]


Charles Mumford Bean was researched for the JEMF Quarterly (vol. VIII, Part 1, Spring, 1972, No. 25) by Donald Lee Nelson[1], and his article is reproduced here:

Charles Mumford Bean, the leader of the band, was bom at Fulton, Itawamba County, Mississippi, on Christmas Day, 1915. His parents, George and Mary Bean were farming people, and had family ties in the area dating back many years. At the age of seven, Mumford swapped a .22 rifle for a fiddle neck. His father affixed it to a cigar box, and with a lot of practice the younger Bean learned "Soldier's Joy," "Eighth Of January," and other popular square dance tunes of the region. George Bean was an accomplished 5-string banjo-picker and "G-string" fiddler, and instructed his son profusely on both instruments.

In 1924 or thereabouts, Mumford Bean, with two distant cousins, Relder Priddy and Morine Little, formed "The Itawambians." Priddy, a mandolinist, was born about 1908, while Little, the band's guitarist, was two years his junior. The boys played for dances, political rallies, and other social outings. George Bean managed the trio of musicians whose ages ranged from eight to sixteen years. Their services were in demand throughout Mississippi, and soon were sought by people in neighboring states as well. Since there were many child musicians at the time throughout the region it is safe to say that their popularity and employment were not dependent solely upon their youth. During this period they played on stage with such luminaries as Fiddlin' John Carson, Fate Norris, Gid Tanner, Mr. 6 Mrs. Hugh Cross, and Riley Puckett. According to Mumford Bean, most audiences were unaware that Puckett was sightless.

The Itawambians became the first band to play over radio station WELO in Tupelo, Mississippi. They were on a jamboree show emanating from that terminal every Saturday night for nearly a year. The group was mainly a string band, but occasionally Mumford would favor vocals. The young trio often performed at church, with Mumford alternating between the violin and the handsaw. It is interesting to note that most of the phonograph records in the Bean household at the time were of the "country" variety. "Com Licker Still In Georgia" was a special family favorite.

In 1925, at the age of nine, Mumford won the Tri-County Fiddler's Contest. This geographical triumvirate consists of Itawamba, Monroe, and Lee Counties. Even in those pre-depression days things were far from easy, and the five or ten dollars first prize awarded to a champion fiddler was not to be ignored. At another fiddlers' contest he ' was pitted against, among others, Tennesseean Arthur Smith. "How'd you come out?" he was asked. "Second." was the reply.

Three years after his trl-county fiddling victory, on 17 February 1928, Mumford Bean and his Itawambians travelled to Memphis to place four numbers on wax for the OKeh Record Company. Two of them, "Downfall Of Paris" (Master No. 400260), and "A New Coon In Town" (400261), were never released, but "Slow Time Waltz" (400256), and "Flow Rain Waltz" (400257), were issued on OKeh 45303. They were all well worked pieces from the central Mississippi area, but on the final number there was evidently a misunderstanding of the title, "Florine Waltz." There is a surprising similarity between the fiddling of young Mumford Bean and the seasoned work of fellow Mississippian (and OKeh artist) William T. Narmour. Since Mr. Bean does not recall Narmour, it must be assumed that such a style is native to that region.

Some months after the session the Beans were in a record store in Tupelo to secure a copy of their effort when they were introduced to Jimmie Rodgers. The Blue Yodeler was in the shop to sign autographs, and cordially spoke with the elder Bean about having the Itawambians record for Victor. Rodgers expressed the opinion that his home staters could obtain a better deal from the people he worked for than they could from the Columbia subsidiary. Whatever ostensible plans were made that day are lost to time, for shortly thereafter George Bean died of acute ulcers at the age of thirty-eight. This tragedy disbanded the group, and Mumford, at 13 years of age, went to farming. The family sold the farm after some four years, and then young Bean entered public works.

During this time he managed to find the chance to play with groups who would come to the area. He performed with the Swift Jewel Cowboys from Memphis, and with Hank Penny and his Radio Cowboys at Gadsden, Alabama in 1936. At the time, the Radio Cowboys' bull fiddler was Floyd Tillman.

From this time until the start of World War II Bean worked at the Chevrolet Parts Department at Harrisburg, Arkansas. He entered the service, and upon his discharge in 1946, formed "Monk Bean And His Rhythm Rascals," a dance band based at Harrisburg. The group consisted of Bob Morrison, lead guitar; Fred Fuchs, piano; Buddy MacWayne, drums; Winters, rhythm guitar; and Monk Bean, violin, trumpet, or bass. Most of the band's bookings were in the night clubs of West Memphis, The Rhythm Rascals lasted some two years, disintegrating as its members married.

In 1950 Mumford Bean moved to South Bend, Indiana, and went to work for the Bendix Corporation. He, his wife, Tarile, and their son Charles, are still living in that city. He has retained his interest in the music he was born into, and is a faithful "Grand Old Opry" listener especially to the few traditional performers still on the show.

Little is known of the other two Itawambians. Relder Priddy passed away about 1966, and Morine Little still lives in the central Mississippi area.




  1. Donald Lee Nelson, "OKeh 45303", JEMF Quarterly, vol. VIII, Part 1, Spring, 1972, No. 25, pp. 191-196 [1].