Many associate Wartrace with the “Cradle of the Walking Horse.” However, Wartrace also has a rich musical heritage. From famed Gallagher Guitars to the annual music festival and now to …
Many associate Wartrace with the “Cradle of the Walking Horse.” However, Wartrace also has a rich musical heritage. From famed Gallagher Guitars to the annual music festival and now to its newest honoree Jimmy Cleveland.
A Wartrace native born in 1926, Cleveland went on to become a famed jazz trombonist, playing alongside Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Maynard Ferguson, Quincy Jones, Gene Krupa, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins, Lalo Schifrin, and Dinah Washington. He is also known for performing on The Merv Griffin Show.
A new marker was unveiled Friday in Wartrace as part of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development’s Tennessee Music Pathways program, which will place markers in all 95 counties to recognize groundbreaking artists.
To see the new sign unveiled were many of Jimmy Cleveland’s relatives and friends who knew him.
“Jimmy was funny, generous. He was just a good guy and we all loved him very much,” said Margaret Carol, a first cousin to Jimmy.
As the oldest of eight children, Cleveland came from a big family. Many of his relatives recall watching him on The Merv Griffin Show, their hearts swelling with pride at a family member living the dream.
“It pleased my father’s heart to see that his brother was doing well,” said Sarah Cleveland Settles, a niece of Jimmy’s. “In the African American tradition, there’s a saying that says if you say the person’s name it allows them to live on. So, we thank you all for thinking of him and honoring him in this way.”
Manchester resident Lorene McReynolds, who’s 94, was a classmate of Jimmy Cleveland’s at Tennessee State University where she graduated in 1949. She recalled how Jimmy would play with a band in Nashville on the weekends while at TSU and she would bring him down to Wartrace or Manchester often.
Bedford County Mayor Chad Graham, who spoke at the unveiling event said, “I’ll be honest with you, I wasn’t familiar with Mr. Cleveland…but I want to thank the Department of Tennessee Tourism Development group for making sure that his memory and legacy and what his contributions were to music will be memorialized here today.”
After a long, talented career, Cleveland died in 2008 in California.
The marker is available for viewing in downtown Wartrace across from the railroad square.