Prologue: Right Place at the Right Time

Earlier this year when I caught wind of rumors that local blues legend Tommy ‘T-Bone’ Pruitt was contemplating retirement, I knew I needed to spring into action.

For entirely selfish reasons, I wanted the opportunity to work with Pruitt while I still could – and perhaps more importantly – I just wanted to hang out with the guy.

At 86 years young, he has literally been playing the blues for three-quarters of a century. Harry Truman was in the White House when Tommy picked up his first guitar.

He has shared the stage with the likes of Solomon Burke, Ike and Tina Turner, and Bo Didley, and for a seven-year period during the 1960s, he was part of the North Carolina-based “5 Royales,” an influential soul and R&B band whose contributions were so great that they were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

With that sort of pedigree, it was a no brainer to include Pruitt among this year’s group of nominees into the Best of the Pine Belt Hall of Fame.

Thanks to Hattiesburg City Councilwoman Deborah Delgado, we contacted Pruitt and invited him to attend – and perform – at this year’s Hall of Fame Dinner.  

For those of us fortunate enough to be there that night, it was truly a case of being at the right place at the right time.

Afterwards, when the crowd had left and the music had faded, I sat at a table near the stage with Tommy and quizzed him about his early touring days on what was then-called the Chitlin' Circuit.

He smiled and mumbled his way through a few stories, but just a few minutes later he fell silent and looked around the nearly empty room. A couple of his sons and some other family friends were sitting at a nearby table.

He pointed at the trophy we had presented him earlier in the evening.

“You know what?” he said. “In all my years of playing music, this is the first time I’ve ever been given one of these. I suppose that means I finally made it. I don’t know if I deserve all the fuss, though.”

Men like Tommy “T-Bone” Pruitt are few and far between, but here in the Pine Belt, we’re fortunate to have several of them in our midst – including a few that we’re proud to feature in this month’s men’s issue.

Something can be said for being at the right place at the right time.

Thanks for giving us a front-row seat to the action.

David Gustafson