Oxford — Nautilus Publishing, long known for its custom corporate calendars, has come out with four Mississippi-themed calendars just in time for the holidays.
Each one deals with a different aspect of the state’s culture, ranging from the blues to facts to Ole Miss football.
Neil White, creative director for Nautilus Publishing, said the idea grew out of a desire to expand their eight-year-old custom calendar business with new products designed for retail sales. The first attempt was to collect photos for a scenic calendar, featuring the Mississippi scenery shot by some of the state’s top photographers, including Stephen Kirkpatrick of Madison, Robert Hubbard of Hattiesburg and Ken Murphy of Bay St. Louis.
“We got so many beautiful images that we decided people might pay money for these!” White said. “It was tough to narrow it down!”
Scenes range from Mississippi sunsets to a wooden rocking chair on a porch in Natchez to the December image, a pier outside Bay St. Louis decorated with white Christmas lights and a neon Santa Claus, taken by Ken Murphy just down the street from his home.
But don’t think the pictures are all that you get in the scenic calendar, titled “Mississippi 2005.” Each month highlights the birthdates of notable and famous Mississippians such as the late U.S. Sen. John Stennis, Federal Express founder Fred Smith, blues legend John Lee Hooker and country singer LeAnn Rimes — and that’s just a few of the names featured on the August page.
It’s a pattern White carries through all of the themed calendars, an approach that requires quite a bit of research support to go with the great images.
“We tried to make each calendar tell a little story,” he said.
For the calendar “Mississippi Blues 2005,” White drew on the research talents of Greg Johnson, director of the blues archive at Ole Miss, as well as the photography talents of Dick Waterman, whose work with the early blues artists while owning Avalon Productions saved most of them from critical and popular obscurity.
Johnson’s work is evident in the near-daily notations of important dates in Mississippi blues history — particularly in the meticulous attention to documenting the dates included in the calendar pages. Much of blues history is marked with confusion about exact dates and times, particularly concerning births and deaths of some of the blues’ most recognized practitioners.
“You can read 10 different sources and get 10 different answers,” said Johnson. “Sometimes you just have to make your best educated guess.”
But Waterman’s images are also striking a chord, particularly a never-before published photo of B.B. King performing at the 1968 Newport Jazz Festival.
“The blues calendar is doing extremely well because there’s interest all over the state, not just Mississippi,” White said.
A lot of blues groups have bought copies at special rates to sell as fundraisers for their organizations, he added.
“I think people who really enjoy the blues will buy this calendar for the photographs, and the facts will be a really nice bonus,” said Johnson.
The research process was even more complicated for the “Mississippi Top Ten 2005” calendar, with each month sporting its own top 10 list in various categories, including “Mississippi Icons,” “Mississippi Disasters,” “Mississippi Characters” and “Mississippi and the NFL” (placed appropriately, accompanying the September page). White said the company consulted sources such as the defunct Mississippi Almanac, newspapers, industry experts and various Internet sources for the trivia that landed on the calendar’s pages.
“Frankly, it’s a pretty off-beat calendar, but it’s great if you like Mississippi trivia,” White noted.
Sometimes they found the answers weren’t as cut and dried as they would like. Much debate ensued over whether to rank the Mississippi River Flood of 1927 or Hurricane Camille as the top Mississippi natural disaster. And documented information on citizen-politician James “Bootie” Hunt, number nine on the list of “Mississippi Characters,” was particularly hard to come by, White said.
“We looked on the Internet and couldn’t find a thing,” he confessed, noting that most of the information on Thad Cochran’s 1996 Democratic challenger came from a staffer at the Capitol who dug up old newspaper articles from that campaign.
No such difficulties with the 16-month Ole Miss football calendar, which was compiled in conjunction with the University of Mississippi with research aid from the Ole Miss Athletic Department and the Loyalty Foundation, White said.
“It’s got modern images as well as images of the great football players from the past. Each month features a couple of players,” he noted.
Important dates in Ole Miss football history are also featured-big wins, milestones, and noted achievements in the SEC.
Three of the calendars retail for $12.99, except for the football one, which sells for $16.99. While they are available in selected retail outlets, direct ordering and shipping is available through calling Nautilus Publishing or online ordering through www.mississippi2005.com.
White is already looking for research support for the trivia calendar, with plans in the making for a calendar project documenting the Mississippi State football program, he said.
“We wanted to do Mississippi calendars that actually were produced in Mississippi, not on the West Coast like the other ones are,” White said.
All in all, White sees the calendars as a great way for the company and its customers to showcase Mississippi’s heritage in fundraising or corporate gifts programs.
Contact MBJ contributing writer at Julie Whitehead at email@example.com.