Tributes

This page is dedicated to the blues players who created the genre as it is today. These are our influences.

Tommy Johnson (c. 1910-1956). Johnson made his first recording in 1928, when he recorded the song “Canned Heat” (about drinking sterno for the alcohol). He only recorded two other times, in 1928 and 1929. In 1929, through a contractual misunderstanding, Johnson believed he signed away his right to record, so he never attempted it again. He was popular at bars and parties in the Jackson, Mississippi, area in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, until he died of a heart attack at the age of 46. Johnson once told his brother he had sold his soul to the devil in order to master the guitar – a story more commonly associated with Robert Johnson. Here is one of Tommy Johnson’s most popular songs, Big Road Blues:

 

Skip James (1902-1969). Born Nehemiah Curtis James in Bentonia Mississippi, Skip loved to play in minor keys and minor key tunings. His unique falsetto creates a striking contrast between the softness of the voice and the grittiness of the lyrics and the intricate guitar work. Like many of the old bluesmen, James originally recorded in the early years – in his case in 1931 for Paramount Records – but didn’t do well over time (largely because of the Depression). He was rediscovered in 1964, only 5 years before he died, and played at the Newport Folk Festival of 1964.

Here he is doing Crow Jane:

Alvin Youngblood Hart (b. 1963). Alvin Youngblood hart is a young(ish) musician in the great country blues tradition. Check him out here. He’s doing Illinois Blues below:

Sonny Boy Williamson (March 11, 1908 – May 25, 1965): Born as Aleck Ford on the Sara Jones Plantation in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, Sonny Boy Williamson traveled with and learned from Big Joe Williams, Elmore James, Robert Lockwood and Robert Johnson. Williamson recorded for Trumpet Records (Mississippi) and Chess Records (Chicago) in the 1950s and 1960s, and toured Europe many times (such as at the American Folk Blues Festival). He recorded with The Yardbirds and The Animals. Williamson is said to have set his hotel room in England on fire while trying to cook a rabbit in a coffee percolator. What more need be said? The man lived!

Mississippi Fred McDowell (January 12, 1904 – July 3, 1972) was a blues singer and guitar player in the North Mississippi style. Born near Memphis, Tennessee, McDowell moved to Como, Mississippi in 1940 or 1941. There he farmed and played music, and eventually became known internationally. McDowell was known for his slide guitar style and his mournful voice.

Mississippi John Hurt (1892 or 1893 – November 2, 1966). Born and raised in Mississippi, Hurt learned to play guitar at age 9. He recorded his first songs in 1928, but lack of sales led him to return to his home town of Avalon, Mississippi, where he worked as a sharecropper and played music at parties. He was rediscovered in 1963 and played at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964. His gentle style and sense of humor have made him a much beloved representative of the country blues genre.

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