Friday, August 25, 2006

Blind Lemon Jefferson

Blind Lemon Jefferson is indisputably one of the main figures in country blues. He was of the highest in many regards, being one of the founders of Texas blues (along with Texas Alexander), one of the most influential country bluesmen of all time, one of the most popular bluesmen of the 1920s, and the first truly commercially successful male blues performer.

His birth has long been placed in July of 1897, though some insist it is September of 1893. Despite that uncertainty a few things are certain: Jefferson was born on a farm in Couchman, TX, outside of Wortham, and, blind from the time of birth, he grew up as one of seven children. Around 1912, he began playing guitar and singing at picnics and parties in his home area. Sometime around 1915, Jefferson also began playing in Dallas and, by 1917, was a resident of the city. He was most often found playing in the Deep Ellum area of Dallas where he eventually met another bluesman who would one day be famous, Leadbelly. Although Leadbelly was the senior bluesman of the two, it is generally recognized that Jefferson was the better guitarist.

From the late teens into the early '20s, Blind Lemon Jefferson traveled and performed his blues, hitting the Mississippi Delta and Memphis regions, although it is likely that his travels took him further. Jefferson was soon brought to Chicago to record for the first time. In all, he recorded almost 100 songs in just a few years.

In december of 1929 he was found dead following a particularly cold snowstorm. There are several stories regarding his death: It has been said that he got lost in the storm after leaving a friend's party at a late hour, or that he was abandoned by his chauffeur, or was killed in a car accident, while yet another version claims Jefferson had a heart attack and froze in the snow. He was still in his thirties when he died and no death certificate was issued, so the date of his passing is only known to be toward the end of december. Pianist Will Ezell escorted Jefferson's body back to Wortham, where he was laid to rest. Ironically, the author of "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean," was buried in an unmarked one. MP3: See That my Grave is Kept Clean


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