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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sad Streets of Clarksdale - Foster "Mr Tater" Wiley

Foster Wiley, a.k.a. ‘Mr. Tater,’ legendary street musician of Clarksdale, Mississippi, passed away on Friday, September 10th. According to friend John Ruskey, Wiley was 63 years old.

Upon hearing of Mr. Tater’s failing health, Music Maker friend Will Dawson volunteered at the Music Maker office to produce CDs for Mr. Tater. Will later informed the Music Maker Foundation that Tater received the CDs prior to his passing, and was truly touched. “The money from CD sales are now being used to cover funeral expenses,” said the the Music Maker Foundation press release. Mr. Tater, an artist who impacted many, will truly be missed.

Affectionately called “Mr. Tater” by his legion of fans, Foster Wiley was perhaps best known for his daily street performances in downtown Clarksdale as well as his late night jams at local venues like Ground Zero Blues Club, Red’s Lounge and Club 2000.

Though plagued by various physical and environmental handicaps, Wiley was rarely without a smile and always in search of his next gig or recording opportunity. As a result, his name or image often appeared in both national and international media circles, including such iconic news outlets as The New York Times, BBC, CNN, CBS and NPR. He was also a regular act at area blues festivals and featured in a handful of video documentaries.

Musicians Jimbo Mathus, Bill Abel, Will Dawson and others helped Wiley record over a dozen CDs, including the recently released “Best of Mr. Tater” on the appropriately (but coincidentally) named Music Maker label.

In the 2008 blues documentary “M for Mississippi,” the man they called Mr. Tater proudly proclaimed, “I never sing the same song twice.” He was laid to rest at Pilgrim’s Rest Cemetery in Clarksdale on Tuesday, September 14th.
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