Legendary Bluesman Otis Rush, a Neshoba County native, will be honored Thursday with a Mississippi Blues Trail marker erected in his honor at the historic railroad depot where he departed for Chicago as a teen-ager.

Rush, 72, and his wife, Masaki, are scheduled to return for the unveiling of the marker at 10 a.m., followed by a reception in his honor.

The public is invited.

Gov. Haley R. Barbour praised Rush's contributions.

"Otis deserves to be recognized in this manner for his tremendous contributions to our musical heritage, as his influence on modern-day rock and roll can still be heard through the melodies of many legendary bands and artists, including Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton," Barbour said. "Otis Rush represents a significant part of Mississippi's blues heritage and I am pleased to include him as part of our unique Blues Trail."

Rush is regarded as one of the premier Blues artists of the past 50 years. Although he never became as famous as many of the performers he inspired, he has certainly been a "guitar hero" to many guitarists, bands, and fans, including Zeppelin, Clapton, Carlos Santana, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, said Alex T. Thompson, director of the Heritage Trails Program for the Mississippi Development Authority, which is hosting the marker ceremony along with the Blues Commission and the Community Development Partnership.

Kaye Rowell, Philadelphia Tourism director, extended an invitation to the public to attend.

"Everyone should come out and experience the Blues Trail marker with Otis and enjoy refreshments in the newly renovated depot," Rowell said.

"This is a honor for our community to have him return to his hometown and it's an honor for us to be chosen as a site for the Blues Trail which will bring numerous tourists to our area."

Rowell thanked the Blues Commission and MDA Tourism for honoring a well deserving Neshoba County native with the marker.

Rush was born in a rural area near Neshoba on April 29, 1935, according to family sources.

Biographies often give his birth date as 1934, but no birth certificate exists, Thompson said.

His Blues came to fruition in Chicago in the 1950s, but was shaped by the hardships and troubles of his early life in Mississippi. He was raised by his mother, Julia Boyd, in a family that was so poor that Otis had to wear the same clothes to school every day - and when the plantation boss summoned him to work the fields, he had to forgo school many times, he said.

As a teen-ager, Rush got married and moved to Chicago in search of a new life. He left Philadelphia from the train station where the Mississippi Blues Trail marker will be unveiled.

Despite his success, Rush said he never forgot about Neshoba County: "This is where my soul came from, this is where my faith started."

Rush said he was honored that a marker would be erected here to recognize his contributions.

"I am very honored and very humbled by this. This is where my roots began and this is a big part of my history. It is history for a lot of us. This place has made some of the strongest, hardest working class of people and families that you don't hear about too much. It deserves to receive recognition," he said.

More than 100 markers will eventually span the entire state as part of the Blues Trail.

The trail, which is expected to attract tourists year round, has a threefold purpose:

• To recognize the important contribution made by individual artists as well as the places that created the Blues;

• To encourage pride and heritage education in local communities;

• To increase tourism.