terry family f &s

The Terry Family of Napa performs at Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. Jim Terry's song, “The Walls Stand on and On,” won top honors in the 2019 West Coast Songwriters Grand Finals.

Napa’s Jim Terry, accompanied by his sons, Clark Terry and Graham Terry — won the 2019 West Coast Songwriters Grand Finals songwriting competition held at Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on Sept. 6.

Singer/songwriters from throughout the Bay Area, Salinas, Stockton, Davis, and even Portland, Oregon, performed their original works. The “Grand Finals” is the culmination of a year-long competition of weeding out hundreds of songs by songwriters, aspiring and experienced alike.

Terry Family performed Jim’s song “The Walls Stand on and On,” a powerful account of the events resulting in the murder of Emmett Till, a tragedy that ignited the Civil Rights movement in 1955. Jim was originally inspired by Rosanne Cash at her Uptown concert in February, 2019 when she performed “Ode to Billie Joe” and in that context made a comment about the Tallahatchie Bridge and River in the heart of the Mississippi Delta and the significance of that location to the Civil Rights movement.

A stone’s throw from the Tallahatchie Bridge is the remains of a tiny grocery store known in 1955 as Bryant’s Grocery in Money, Mississippi in which Emmett Till had an alleged inappropriate flirtatious interaction with the store owner’s wife.

Emmett, a 14-year-old African-American boy from Chicago, was visiting relatives who lived in the Money area. Till was brutally murdered by two white men, including the avenging store owner, and his body was dumped in the Tallahatchie River.

The two men were tried and acquitted after a one-hour deliberation by the all-white jury.

Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till, famously ordered that Emmett’s coffin be opened at his Chicago funeral attended by 60,000 people.

The media coverage of Mamie’s fearless decision propelled the Civil Rights movement in the day. The song makes the point that the walls of the abandoned old store are still standing as a continuing reminder to America of its struggle to acknowledge its past of racial violence.

Jim and his sons perform as the Terry Family Band. Their songs and music come from the complex experiences of life in Napa, in California, the country and the world.

The musical influences are many, generally folk and Americana, but songwriting inspiration he attributes to Dar Williams and her team at the Writing A Song that Matters Retreat in Hudson Valley, New York.

Clark and Graham are products of Napa Valley schools. Clark is an executive with Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants and Graham is a teacher with Napa School of Music and Instrumental Music Instructor at Justin-Siena High School.

Terry Family Band will be performing at Blue Note on Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. For tickets and more information about the show, visit bluenotenapa.com.

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