Saturday, September 24, 2016

Today In Blues History September 24

Today in Blues History

September 24

Lemon Henry Jefferson, better known as Blind Lemon Jefferson was born on this date in 1893 in Coutchman, TX. He was born either completely or partially blind and would eventually become a blues and gospel singer, guitarist, and songwriter. He was one of the most popular blues singers of the 1920s and has been called the "Father of the Texas Blues." Prior to Jefferson, few artists had recorded solo voice and blues guitar, the first of which were the vocalist Sara Martin and the guitarist Sylvester Weaver, who recorded Longing for Daddy Blues, probably on October 24, 1923. The first self-accompanied solo performer of a self-composed blues song was Lee Morse, whose Mail Man Blues was recorded on October 7, 1924. Jefferson's music is uninhibited and represented the classic sounds of everyday life, from a honky-tonk to a country picnic, to street corner blues, to work in the burgeoning oil fields (a reflection of his interest in mechanical objects and processes). Jefferson's "old-fashioned" sound and confident musicianship made it easy to market him. His skillful guitar playing and impressive vocal range opened the door for a new generation of male solo blues performers, such as Furry Lewis, Charlie Patton, and Barbecue Bob. He stuck to no musical conventions, varying his riffs and rhythm and singing complex and expressive lyrics in a manner exceptional at the time for a "simple country blues singer."

Passing on this date in 2006 in Mequon, WI was one of the longest lived bluesmen, Henry Townsend. Townsend was born in Shelby, Mississippi and grew up in Cairo, Illinois. He left home at the age of nine because of an abusive father and hoboed his way to St. Louis, Missouri. He learned guitar while in his early teens from a locally renowned blues guitarist known as "Dudlow Joe." By the late 1920s he had begun touring and recording with pianist Walter Davis, and had acquired the nickname "Mule" because he was sturdy in both physique and character. In St. Louis, he worked with some of the early blues pioneers, including J.D. Short. Townsend was one of the only artists known to have recorded in nine consecutive decades. He first recorded in 1929, and remained active up to 2006. By the mid-1990s, Townsend and his one-time collaborator Yank Rachell were the only active blues artists whose careers had started in the 1920s. He recorded on several different labels, including Columbia Records and Folkways Records.

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