Lightnin' Hopkins was born Sam Hopkins on March 1912 in Centerville TX. Hopkins' brothers John Henry and Joel were also talented bluesmen, but it was Sam who became a star. In 1920, he met the legendary Blind Lemon Jefferson at a social function, and even got a chance to play with him. Later, Hopkins served as Jefferson's guide.
In his teens, Hopkins began working with another pre-war great, singer Texas Alexander, who was his cousin. A mid-'30s stretch in Houston's County Prison Farm for the young guitarist interrupted their partnership for a time, but when he was freed, Hopkins hooked back up with the older bluesman.
When Hopkins and Alexander were playing in Houston in 1946, he was discovered by Lola Anne Cullum of Los Angeles' Aladdin Records (although Alexander would not make it out to LA). He settled in Houston in 1952 and gained much attention. Solid recordings followed including his masterpiece song Mojo Hand in 1960. He was an influence on Jimmie Vaughan's work, and, more significantly, on the vocals and blues style of Pigpen, the keyboardist of the Grateful Dead until 1972. He was also an important influence on Townes Van Zandt, the legendary Texas folk/blues songwriter and performer, who often performed Hopkins numbers in his live performances.
Lightnin' Hopkins was a great influence on many local musicians around Houston and Austin, Texas in the 1950's and 1960's. His style was born from spending many hours playing informally without a band as backup. His distinctive style often included playing, in effect, bass, rhythm, lead, percussion, and vocals, all at the same time. His musical phrasing would often include a long low note at the beginning, the rhythm played in the middle range, then the lead in the high range. By playing this quickly - with occasional slaps of the guitar - the effect of bass, rhythm, percussion and lead would be created. He died January 1982. MP3: Gamblers Blues