Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Son House

Son House was born Eddie James House Jr., on March 21, 1902, in Riverton, MS. By the age of 15, he was preaching the gospel in various Baptist churches as the family seemingly wandered from one plantation to the next. He didn't even bother picking up a guitar until he turned 25; to quote House, "I didn't like no guitar when I first heard it; oh gee, I couldn't stand a guy playin' a guitar. I didn't like none of it." But Son hated plantation labor even more and had developed a taste for corn whiskey. After drunkenly launching into a blues at a house frolic in Lyon, one night and picking up some coin for doing it, the die seemed to be cast; Son House may have been a preacher, but he was part of the blues world now.

If the romantic notion that the blues life is said to be a life full of trouble is true, then Son found a barrel of it one night at another house frolic in Lyon. He shot a man dead that night and was immediately sentenced to imprisonment at Parchman Farm. He ended up only serving two years of his sentence, with his parents both lobbying hard for his release, claiming self defense.

After hitchhiking and hoboing the rails, he ran into the legendary Charley Patton. He followed Patton up to Grafton, and recorded a handful of sides for the Paramount label. It was those recordings that led Alan Lomax to his door in 1941 to record him for the Library of Congress. After the Lomax recordings, he just as quickly disappeared, moving to Rochester. When folk blues researchers finally found him in 1964, he was cheerfully exclaiming that he hadn't touched a guitar in years.

He fell into ill health by the early '70s; what was later diagnosed as both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease first affected his memory and his ability to recall songs onstage and later, his hands, which shook so bad he finally had to give up the guitar and eventually live performing altogether by 1976, passing away on October 19, 1988. MP3: John The Revelator - My Black Mama


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