A funeral Saturday in Des Moines will be a musical event. Ninety-year-old Jimmy Pryor was a musician well-known to blues players and fans for decades. Tom Gary, a teacher at Buena Vista University, says while he was attending I-S-U he played with Pryor at times. Gary says he played with Pryor as long ago as 1993, but the bluesman had lived in Des Moines since the 1960s. He’d come to Iowa from Detroit, which was his home starting in 1950 when he moved there from West Virginia.
Jimmy Pryor was born in 1916 in West Virginia and Gary says when he arrived in Iowa more than four decades ago, the capital city had a vibrant music scene. Des Moines did not permit selling liquor by the drink, so Des Moines bars could stay open as long as they liked since legally they were “key clubs.” Coming from Detroit where bars had to close at two A.M., Jimmy found Des Moines “something special.”
He says Des Moines had a couple of really hot clubs, like the Sepia and the Billican, though he says sadly that today the swinging African-American district’s gone, turned into the parking lot of a hospital.
There will be a funeral parade on Saturday to the State Historical Society building in downtown Des Moines, and a service at 11 A.M. in the center’s auditorium, open to the public.