Othar Turner’s unique style of fife and drum music has received national accolades and awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage award, the Smithsonian Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Charlie Patton Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival.
How We Helped:
Othar Turner, a Music Maker artist from 1995 until his passing in 2003, received sustenance grants from Music Maker and was featured in the book Music Makers: Portraits and Songs from the Roots of America. Music Maker also helped him arrange performances at the Chicago Blues Festival in Illinois and at the Freedom Creek Festival in Alabama.
Othar Turner was born in 1907 to Hollis and Betty Turner, both sharecroppers, in Jackson County, Mississippi. His father left shortly after his birth, leaving his mother to raise the children. Turner started work at a young age, chopping cotton and plowing fields. He began to play on the tin tub at the age of fifteen and the drums at the age of seventeen. Turner also taught himself how to make and play a fife. Othar Turner first started performing at local picnics. The money he earned performing was enough to buy a farm outside Como, Mississippi. At his farm, he raised four children with his wife Ada “Moochie” Turner. Turner was the leader of the Rising Star Fife and Drum Corps, the only Mississippi fife and drum band left in America. Othar Turner passed in 2003 at the age of 94. His granddaughter, Sharday, has become an expert fife player and along with her brothers she will keep this ancient music alive for generations to come.