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Charles K. Wolfe

musician, was born in Bellwood, Smith County, Tennessee, the son of John Henry Bailey and Mary Reedy, farmers. Bailey grew up in the rolling hills east of Nashville and as a child listened to what he later called the “black hillbilly music” played by his family. His grandfather Lewis Bailey was a skilled fiddler who won numerous local championships and a family string band often appeared at local fairs and dances DeFord s fascination with the harmonica an instrument that was especially popular in Middle Tennessee resulted from a childhood illness When he was three he was stricken with polio and was bedridden for several years to amuse himself he practiced the harmonica Lying in bed and listening to the distant sound of trains hunting dogs and barnyard animals DeFord became adept at working imitations of these into his playing creating unorthodox bent notes and mouthing patterns into ...

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Paul Oliver

(b Opelousas, LA, June 25, 1925; d Lafayette, LA, Dec 12, 1987). American zydeco and blues singer and accordion and harmonica player. The son of an African American accordion player, he heard both white and black Cajun musicians as a child. He played music at weekends before moving in the mid-1950s to Houston, where he secured employment in zydeco dance halls attended by black migrants from Louisiana. He played the large piano accordion which was more versatile and suitable for blues in many keys. The success of his Clifton Blues (1954, Imper.) made him the most esteemed of the zydeco musicians. He was later joined by his brother Cleveland Chenier, who played a corrugated metal ‘chest washboard’ in the form of a breastplate; they had a hit recording, Louisiana Blues (1965 Bayou a good example of Chenier s rich patois ...

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Pamela Lee Gray

zydeco accordionist and singer, was born in Opelousas, Louisiana, the son of Joe Chenier, a sharecropper. His mother's name is not known. Clifton's father played the accordion in his free time. Maurice “Big” Chenier, Clifton's uncle, played guitar and fiddle and ran a popular small dance club in Louisiana. His neighbor Isaie Blasa gave Clifton an accordion in 1947, and his father gave him private lessons on the instrument. Clifton and his brother Cleveland began playing together in 1937, with Clifton on the accordion and Cleveland on a washboard-like instrument called a frottoir. The brothers were a popular dance hall act through the 1940s. Clifton continued to make music called la-la or house music but needed to work various other jobs to make a living, including working in the rice fields, cutting sugarcane, driving a refinery truck, and hauling refinery piping.

Chenier moved from Lake ...

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Paul A. Frisch

blues harmonica player, singer, and songwriter, was born in Tunica, Mississippi, the youngest of eight children of Hattie and Mose Cotton. Mose was a farm laborer and Baptist preacher, and Hattie worked in the cotton fields alongside Mose and their children. James Cotton’s career in music started with singing in the church choir. One Christmas he received a fifteen-cent toy harmonica and initially believed that the instrument was useful only for imitating the sounds of trains and chickens.

Cotton grew up in the Mississippi Delta region an area long associated with the cultivation of cotton and known as the birthplace of American blues music an African American art form rooted in the conditions of oppression and poverty associated with the cultivation of cotton under slavery and later sharecropping and articulated in field work songs gospel music and the blues Cotton s hometown Tunica sits astride U S Highway 61 ...

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Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

songster and one-man band, was born in Jonesboro, Georgia, near Atlanta. Raised by a succession of foster families, he never knew his father and barely knew his mother. “My mother used to give me away to different people and they were so darn mean to me I used to run away,” Fuller told interviewer Richard Noblett many years later Fuller showed an early aptitude for making musical instruments constructing a mouth bow at age seven or eight He was eight and still being cared for by a foster family when his mother died He dropped out of third grade and spent the next year or two working various jobs including tending cattle outside Atlanta and carrying water at a grading camp At age ten he ran away from foster care for good staying briefly with his sister and her husband in the Atlanta area where he learned to ...

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Steven C. Tracy

blues singer and instrumentalist, was born Marion Walter Jacobs in Marksville, Louisiana, the son of Adam Jacobs and Beatrice Leviege, sharecroppers. Soon after Walter's birth, the family moved to Alexandria, Louisiana, where he grew up, and at age eight he began playing the harmonica, absorbing the sounds of both the white harmonica player Lonnie Glosson and Cajun music. At age eleven or twelve Walter ran away from home, his destination New Orleans, where he played on the streets and perhaps in some clubs in 1942; he also played at the Liberty Inn Club in Monroe, Louisiana, in 1943. By 1944 he was in Helena, Arkansas, learning a few pointers from Rice Miller (also known as “Sonny Boy”) and appearing on radio on King Biscuit Time and Mother's Best Flour Hour in 1945–1946. Jacobs married Pearl Lee around 1945 they moved to East ...

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Paul Oliver

(b Alexandria, LA, May 1, 1930; d Chicago, Feb 15, 1968). American blues harmonica player and singer. Born into extreme poverty in the rural black South, he began to earn a living playing the harmonica when he was only eight. A decade later he was a street musician in Chicago, where he recorded Ora Nelle Blues (1947, Ora Nelle) in the style of Sonny Boy Williamson. He performed in Chicago clubs and on tour with Muddy Waters (1948–50, 1952) and during the 1950s travelled extensively in the USA. He soon developed his own technique of amplified harmonica playing, making use of pronounced vibrato or ‘warble’, as on Mean Old World (1952, Checker). He had an undistinguished singing voice and expressed himself most effectively through the harmonica, especially in slow numbers such as Blue Lights with Robert ...

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Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

blues musician, was born Robert Lee McCullum (or McCollum) in Helena, Arkansas. Almost nothing is known of his parents except that his father's surname was McCullum, that his mother's maiden name was McCoy, and that they were sharecroppers. When still in his teens Robert left home to travel and work. He began his musical career as a harmonica player but switched to guitar around 1930 when he and a cousin, Houston Stackhouse, were working on a farm in Murphy's Bayou, Mississippi. Stackhouse, who had traveled with and learned from the Delta blues legend Tommy Johnson, recalled that he taught McCullum to play guitar, passing along much of the Johnson repertoire. At the same time McCullum taught his brother Percy to play harmonica, and the three began playing locally, eventually branching out to such Mississippi venues as Crystal Springs and Jackson.

After a mid 1930s altercation one that ...

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Mark Steven Maulucci

singer, musician, and songwriter, was born Mathis James Reed in Dunleith, Mississippi, the son of Joseph Reed and Virginia Ross Reed in Dunleith, Mississippi. The Reeds were sharecroppers, moving from plantation to plantation, and Jimmy was the youngest of their ten children. Virginia sang in church, and Joseph played harmonica and encouraged his youngest son in music. Jimmy was a childhood friend of Eddie Taylor, who was two and a half years older and tutored Jimmy on guitar after they worked all day in the fields. Taylor was a more advanced player and already steeped in the Delta blues, having followed master bluesmen like Charlie Patton, Son House, Robert Johnson, and Howlin' Wolf around the area. He also knew the young Muddy Waters.

Jimmy Reed worked at sharecropping until he was sixteen years old then he relocated to Chicago to live with ...

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Mark Steven Maulucci

blues singer, musician, and songwriter, was born James A. Lane to Grozie Lane in Ruleville, Mississippi. His stepfather, Henry Rogers, was killed in Atlanta shortly after moving his family there in 1926. His mother moved the family back to the Delta where Jimmy was taken in by his maternal grandmother, Leanna Jackson. The family moved frequently over the years and lived in Memphis and West Memphis, Tennessee, and Helena, Arkansas, and back to Mississippi in the mid-1930s to the town of Vance.

Jimmy was strongly attracted to music although there were no musicians in his family He built himself a diddley bow which is a length of wire nailed to the side of a barn and fretted with a bottle or can He became rather accomplished on harmonica which was both inexpensive and portable and sometimes played with three or four other harmonica players ...

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Paul A. Frisch

blues/funk singer, songwriter, guitarist, and harmonica player, was born Emmet Ellis Jr. in Homer, Louisiana. Rush is the son of Emmet Ellis Sr., a farmer and pastor whose guitar and harmonica playing influenced Bobby, and Mattie (maiden name unknown). He played the guitar in his father's church. In 1946 Rush's father moved the family to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where he took on the pastorate. When Rush was twelve he drove a tractor at night in the rice fields and attended school during the day, using his earnings to purchase a used guitar and some amplifiers. In 1953 Rush s father moved the family to Chicago but Bobby returned to Pine Bluff where he formed the Bobby Rush Band hiring experienced musicians and equipping them with his amplifiers The young Emmet took an assumed name out of respect for his father as the elder Emmet disapproved ...

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Charles Rosenberg

specializing in northern Mississippi hill country blues, was born a few miles east of Como, Mississippi, the son of Dora Tuggle and Walter Strickland. Social Security records show his date of birth as 1 October 1919, but his birth certificate states a date of 6 October 1924, according to information compiled by the Mississippi Blues Commission. His name has often been spelled Napoleon, but his family used Napolian, the spelling given here, including at his funeral.

Census entries indicate that Strickland left school after the fourth grade and spent most of his life doing agricultural work living a good part of the time with his mother and working the same fields Census records for the family are rare and intermittent possibly because census takers didn t always inquire about employees or sharecroppers living on plantations Como was a center for cotton production from the 1880s until the 1930s ...

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Richard Carlin

blues harmonica player and vocalist, was born Sanders Terrell in Greensboro, North Carolina, the son of Ruben Terrell, a tenant farmer, and Mossiline Smith, a singer. Terry learned to play folk-blues harmonica from his father, who was an amateur musician. Two unrelated childhood injuries led to the loss of sight in both of his eyes. Not unlike other black, blind men at the time, Terry took up a musical career because he was unable to obtain other work. He began to travel to nearby cities, playing on street corners and begging for change. In Durham, he met another blind street musician, Blind Boy Fuller, a talented singer and performer on the National steel guitar. The two began to perform together and in 1937 went to New York City to record for the American Record Company (ARC) label. A year later, jazz producer John Hammond invited ...

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Richard Carlin

Terry, Sonny (24 October 1911–12 March 1986), blues harmonica player and vocalist, was born Sanders Terrell in Greensboro, North Carolina, the son of Ruben Terrell, a tenant farmer, and Mossiline Smith, a singer. Terry learned to play folk-blues harmonica from his father, who was an amateur musician. Two unrelated childhood injuries led to the loss of sight in both of his eyes. Not unlike other black, blind men at the time, Terry took up a musical career because he was unable to obtain other work. He began to travel to nearby cities, playing on street corners and begging for change. In Durham, he met another blind street musician, Blind Boy Fuller a talented singer and performer on the National steel guitar The two began to perform together and in 1937 went to New York City to record for the American Record Company ARC label A year ...

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Dave Marsh

(bWest Memphis, AR, Dec 9, 1934; d? Chicago, Jan 15, 1998). American blues harmonica player and singer. He was the son of farmers in Marion, Arkansas, and his grandmother sang gospel music. By the age of nine he was singing and playing the harmonica in the streets of West Memphis with a friend, Junior Parker. He moved to Chicago in 1946 and within two years he, David and Louis Myers, and Fred Below had formed a group known variously as the Little Boys, Three Deuces and Four Aces. They backed the guitarist and kazoo player Tampa Red, among others. Wells replaced Little Walter in Muddy Waters’s group in late 1952 Around this time he began recording for small Chicago blues labels such as States Chief and Chess His vocal and instrumental style was influenced by Sonny Boy Williamson i and by ...

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Kip Lornell

Wells, Junior (09 December 1934–15 January 1998), blues harmonica player and vocalist, was born Amos Blackmore in Memphis, Tennessee; his parents' names are not known. He was raised on a farm just outside of nearby Marion, Arkansas, and attended school through grade school but did not pursue a high school education. Wells, as he was known by the late 1940s, began playing harmonica on the streets of West Memphis, Arkansas, where his family had relocated during World War II. Largely a self-taught musician, Wells was influenced by the recordings of John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson as well as a local resident, Herman “Little Junior” Parker, who later recorded for RPM and Duke records.

In 1946 Wells moved with his mother to Chicago where he became attracted to the blues clubs most of which were located in the city s predominantly African American West Side and South Side ...

Article

Kip Lornell

blues harmonica player and vocalist, was born Amos Blackmore in Memphis, Tennessee. His parents' names are not known. He was raised on a farm just outside nearby Marion, Arkansas, and attended grade school but did not pursue a high school education. Wells, as he was known by the late 1940s, began playing harmonica on the streets of West Memphis, Arkansas, where his family had relocated during World War II. Largely a self-taught musician, Wells was influenced by the recordings of Sonny Boy Williamson as well as a local resident, Herman “Little Junior” Parker, who later recorded for RPM and Duke records.

In 1946 Wells moved with his mother to Chicago where he became attracted to the blues clubs most of which were located in the city s predominantly African American West Side and South Side neighborhoods Within two years Wells was sitting in with well known local ...

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Johnny Lee Williamson was born in Jackson, Tennessee. He taught himself to play the harmonica as a child. In his teens he left home and traveled, hobo-style, throughout the South with mandolin player Yank Rachel and guitarist Sleepy John Estes. He moved to Chicago in 1937 and quickly became one of the city's most popular bluesmen, recording such hits as “Good Morning Little School Girl” and “Sugar Man Blues.”

Williamson's imaginative style and stunning virtuosity brought the harmonica to the forefront of Blues and have influenced virtually every major blues harmonicist after him Williamson pioneered numerous playing techniques which are now considered standard Among them are manipulating the sound of the harmonica by cupping the hands and crossed key playing where one tunes the harmonica a fourth below the key of the song This allows the musician to play in the right key by inhaling rather than ...

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Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

blues harmonica player, was born John Lee Curtis Williamson in Jackson, Tennessee, the son of Rafe Williamson and Nancy Utley, occupations unknown. His father died shortly before he was born, and he was raised by his mother, who later remarried. As a boy, Williamson sang with a gospel quartet at Blair's Chapel CME Church on the outskirts of Jackson. When he was nine or ten, his mother gave him a harmonica, or mouth harp, as a Christmas gift, and he began teaching himself to play, starting with the gospel tunes he sang in church. At least two other Tennessee musicians later claimed to have known him then: John “Homesick James” Williamson, a guitarist from Somerville, said he and Williamson were boyhood friends, and James “Yank” Rachell, a mandolinist from Brownsville, claimed Williamson was a youngster riding a bicycle in Jackson when they met.

Though ...

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Paul Oliver

(bJackson, TN, March 30, 1914; dChicago, June 1, 1948). American blues singer and harmonica player. He moved to Chicago in 1932 and five years later made his first recording, Good Morning School Girl (1937, Bb), which introduced his individual, widely influential harmonica style of ‘squeezed’ notes and ‘crossed-harp’ playing (e.g., playing in the key of E on an A harmonica). A slight speech impediment, evident on Big Apple Blues (1941, Bb), gave his singing a distinctive tongue-tied quality which was much imitated. His lyrics included biographical themes, for example Bad Luck Blues (1939, Bb), on the murder of his cousin; narrative pieces, such as Joe Louis and John Henry Blues (1939, Bb); and the patriotic War Time Blues (1940 Bb Many of his recordings were taken at a brisk jump tempo such ...