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Mississippi Arts: Digging up Blind Melon’s Mississippi roots

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

  • The majority of the ‘No Rain’ band’s members are from the Golden Triangle, and the region became a favorite off-the-grid spot as their star rose in the early 1990s.

Before Blind Melon’s signature hit song, “No Rain,” became inescapable on MTV and alternative-rock radio in 1993, the most anyone knew about the band was singer Shannon Hoon’s childhood friendship with Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses.

But by the time the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards rolled around in September, the song was so huge the “Bee Girl” from the song’s music video (played by 10-year-old Heather DeLoach) was a sort of star in her own right, closing the show in costume by tap dancing across the stage at Los Angeles’s Universal Amphitheatre.

The main songwriter of “No Rain” was bassist Brad Smith, who grew up in West Point, Miss., with guitarist Rogers Stevens, and the drummer was Glen Graham from nearby Columbus. And as it turns out, the Golden Triangle area played an even larger role in the L.A.-based band’s development and career.

Back in West Point, Smith and Stevens grew up playing music together, while Graham was known locally for playing with Pat Sansone, who later joined Wilco, and Jimbo Mathus, the mastermind of Squirrel Nut Zippers. “We all knew each other from early on, from Cub Scouts and the swim team,” Stevens says.  

High school didn’t hold Stevens’s attention, though, and by his senior year he was skipping school regularly to play guitar. “By that time, I had moved away from trying to be like Eddie [Van Halen],” he says. “I’d been listening to the Stones and R.E.M. And we were writing the first Blind Melon record two years after that.”

Smith and Stevens decided to move to L.A. and form a new band, first working at Bryan Foods in West Point to save up money for the trip. Soon after arriving, they met guitarist Christopher Thorn, a Pennsylvania transplant, before hooking up with Shannon Hoon from Indiana and forming Blind Melon in 1990. Record labels were hot to sign the band based on Hoon’s affiliation with Guns N’ Roses, and they soon convinced Graham to be their new drummer.

“Glenn showed up, and we started rehearsing immediately and doing these showcases in front of, you know, the president [of a record label] or something,” he says. “Every single record company was offering us a deal, and there were a lot of them back then.”

After signing with Capitol Records, the members of Blind Melon headed east to write songs for their debut album. On their way to Durham, North Carolina, where they had secured a rental house, they stopped in West Point and holed up in a former restaurant to rehearse. There the band wrote “Soak the Sin,” the first song on the album, and they returned to the area several times over the next few years.

A mobile home in Tibbee, a community south of West Point, served as the location of their video shoot for “I Wonder.” Filmed in November 1992, two months after the album Blind Melon was released, the video shows the band and an army of extras covered in mud. 

“We got a bunch of mud out there, and we had this British director who was super cool named Paul Boyd,” Stevens says. “We just spent a day out there rolling around in the mud, pretending like we were playing a song.”

On another visit, after their debut was already selling in the millions — thanks to near-constant spins of “No Rain” — they worked up the song “2×4,” a standout from their 1995 album Soup, in a garage somewhere in the Golden Triangle while rehearsing for a tour. “We were getting better, quickly,” he says. “We weren’t running out of ideas — it felt like it was becoming more focused. You could hear a little more personality in terms of individual [song]writers.”

Unfortunately, tragedy found Blind Melon before Soup had a chance to catch on. In October 1995, Hoon was found dead on the band’s tour bus in New Orleans, grounding the band to a halt. Blind Melon later reformed with a new singer, Travis Warren, and in 2008 released the album To All My Friends. The band has performed sporadically since, releasing a series of singles between 2019 and 2021.

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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