Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Blind Willie McTell

Born William Samuel McTell in 1901, in Thomson, Georgia, Blind Willie lost his sight in late childhood, yet earned the status as one of the most accomplished guitarists and lyrical storytellers in Blues history. There was some confusion over his surname; some sources claimed his real name was "McTear" but a teacher at a blind school he attended inadvertently changed it to "McTell", misunderstanding Willie's diction. However, in a 1977 interview, his wife Kate McTell said that somebody on his father's side of the family disguised their name because they were "big whiskey still people."

Blind Willie McTell learned the guitar from his mother during his early teens. Through his teenage years and early twenties he played in various touring carnivals and shows, including the John Roberts Plantation Show. During this time he also attended various schools for the blind and became an accomplished musical theorist, able to both read and write music in Braille.

While few of his recordings ever earned mainstream popularity, his influence on the modern music and art scene is widely known. His songs (Statesboro Blues, Broke Down Engine Blues, etc...) have been recorded by famous artists such as the Allman Brothers, Taj Mahal and others.

He left the music scene for the pulpit in later life and the details of Blind Willie's death in 1959, remain nebulous; nonetheless, his legacy grows exponentially each year. MP3: Statesboro Blues


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