Melvin “House Cat” Hendrex has been an active musician and performer for several decades. He grew up in Jackson, close by to Jackson State College (now University). He was influenced early on by the music of the choir at College Hill Missionary Baptist Church. His grandmother was a member of the choir and would often take Hendrex with her to their rehearsals. He also snuck into a club in his neighborhood to hear local blues performers.
Hendrex started out as a vocalist, singing in his school choir as well as performing in pop vocal quartets with friends. He also would hang around in local clubs, waiting his turn to sing one or two songs with the band.
After spending time in the military, Hendrex left Mississippi for a two-week gig in Florida and ended up spending six years there, playing throughout the state and the southeast. He spent much of his time playing a grueling schedule with the showband Supreme Cream and also worked with soul-blues performer Benny Latimore, touring Florida and the southeastern states with him.
Hendrex returned to Jackson in the late 1970s in order to care for his ailing grandmother. He was soon back out on the road, playing keyboards for blues singer ZZ Hill. He joined Hill during the performer’s career high point when Hill released his huge hit “Down Home Blues” and several other songs that kept the group extremely busy on the road. After’s Hill’s premature death in 1984, Hendrex took a brief bit of time off before joining Bobby Rush’s band. He played with Rush for over 18 years, touring throughout the United States and making several international tours. Unfortunately, the group was involved in a serious automobile accident in April 2001 that left Hendrex hospitalized for several months.
Hendrex is slowly making his recovery from the accident and recently has begun playing in the Jackson area again, both with his own band and backing up other musicians. He is working on completing a solo CD and is serving as an advisor to younger musicians on arranging and recording. Hendrex was a recipient of the Arts Commission’s Folk Arts Fellowship Award in July 2002.