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James Carson Whitsett Sr.

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James Carson Whitsett, Sr. died Tuesday May 8, 2007 at home after a 16-month bout with brain cancer. Born May 1, 1945 in Jackson, Carson graduated from Murrah High School in 1963. He attended Millsaps College, where he was a member of Pi Kappa Alpha, and Belhaven College.
A gifted musician and composer, Carson's professional life as a keyboardist, songwriter, and recording artist began in high school as a member of his brother's band, Tim Whitsett & The Imperials.
In the early 1970s, Carson joined Stax Records in Memphis as a session musician and recorded an album as a member of noted instrumental group, The MGs.
Returning to Jackson, Carson joined Malaco Records' house band and performed on one of the highest selling Blues albums of all time, Down Home Blues by Z.Z. Hill, and numerous albums by legends such as Bobby 'Blue' Bland, B.B. King, Little Milton, and Johnnie Taylor. During this time, Carson also played on albums by Paul Simon, Paul Davis, Connie Francis, et al, scored three movies, wrote songs for Malaco artists, and co-produced a single by Fern Kinney that reached number one on the British Top 100.
His first major success as a songwriter came in 1980 with Fred .Why Not Me. Building on this success in Nashville, Carson co-wrote Dear Me for Lorrie Morgan (with Jacksonian Scott Mateer), Mississippi Moon (co-written with Tony Joe White), and the title song of Solomon Burke's Grammy-winning album Don't Give Up On Me. Other notable artists who recorded Carson's songs include The Staple Singers, Conway Twitty, Barbara Mandrell, Wilson Pickett, Jerry Butler, Etta James, and Joe Cocker. As a producer-arranger, his credits included Patti Page, Dorothy Moore, and soul icon Eddie Floyd.
Carson was country music star Kathy Mattea's keyboardist for several years, which gave him the opportunity to play with full symphony orchestras. He toured Europe several times, with Mattea, Tony Joe White, and various Malaco artists.
Carson continued composing and recording until this past February, when he could no longer work. Yet, in his final weeks, his renowned wit entertained a continuous line of well-wishers.
Carson's parents were the late Miriam Hilton Whitsett and Paul T. Whitsett, Sr. He is survived by his wife of 32 years, Kirsten, daughter Nicole (Andy) Bailey of Franklin, TN, sons Carson, Jr. (Elizabeth) of San Diego, and Christopher of Nashville; brother Tim Whitsett of Ridgeland; sisters Lucy (James) McGuire of Novi, MI, Kit (Mark) Fields of Ridgeland, Cynthia (Wayne) Vowell of Nashville. He leaves five granddaughters, nine nephews, and one niece.
Services will be at Woodlawn Funeral Home in Nashville. Visitation is Friday from 4 - 8 pm and Saturday 1 - 2:30 pm. The funeral will be Saturday at 2:30 pm, the Rev. Dr. James N. McGuire presiding.
In lieu of flowers, Carson had asked for donations to either of two organizations: Musicares, 1904 Wedgewood Ave., Nashville, TN 37212, and Alive Hospice, 1718 Patterson St., Nashville, TN 37203.
Published in Clarion Ledger on May 10, 2007
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