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Episode 82 Natchez Burnin’ The Rhythm Club Fire of 1940

The Natchez Rhythm Club changed the city of Natchez on April 23rd 1940. 209 people died and more than 200 were injured including civic and cultural leaders. All of the victims of one of the deadliest fires in US history were Black.

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Photo: Shannon Ballard


A Nightclub, A Fire…And a Generation Vanishes. Firehouse. October 27, 2010.

80 years later: Remembering the deadly Rhythm Club fire. Fire Rescue 1. April 23, 2020

Joos, Vincent. (2019) The Natchez fire: a profile of African American remembrance in a small Mississippi town. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill College of Arts and Sciences, Department of American Studies, Folklore Program

Papa Lightfoot-Natchez. Mississippi Blues Commission.

The Century’s Worst Fires. New York Times. March 26, 1990.  

Rhythm Club fire. Wikipedia. September 10, 2017 

Survivors Tell of Fight at Natchez Fire. Delta Democrat-Times. April 25, 1940

Nobody Knows where the Blues Come from: Lyrics and History. (2007). United States: University Press of Mississippi.


Theme Song “Dark & Troubled” by Pantherburn. Special thanks to Phillip St Ours for permission for use.

Somber Ballads and Long Road Ahead B by Kevin MacLeod. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Source: http://incompetech.com/. Pale Rider by Blues Mini Vandals; Burden Laid Down by The Westerlies; Fresh Fallen Snow by Chris Haugen; Lost Cowboy by Coyote Hearing. Licensed Under Creative Commons. Beginnings in Dust, Devouring the Whole by Ross Gentry. Courtesy Headway Recordings Asheville.  The Natchez Burning by Howlin’ Wolf. The Complete RPM & Chess Singles A’s & B’s 1951-62, Vol. 1 ℗ 2014 Acrobat Licensing Ltd. The Natchez Fire by Gene Gilmore. Originally issued on the 1940 single (Decca 7763) (78 RPM). “It’s Tight Like That” by Walter Barnes and His Royal Creolians. 1928.

Correction: Gene Gilmore is the artist who performed the 1940 version of The Natchez Fire. He was incorrectly mentioned as George Gilmore.