Son House – Father of the Delta Blues. His life reads like #1 best seller. An amazing story of growing up in church and becoming a preacher of the gospel, only to later be pulled into a life of playing his blues in roadhouses across the country. Such contrast and conviction that towers most of our lives by todays standards. He taught Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson how to play, now that’s sayin’ something!
It’s funny the more I listen to his music the more I understand what he’s saying and what it really means. I think I hear the gospel being sung in this man’s blues. First time I’ve ever heard the combination of blues and gospel together as one. I love it.
You can take an on-line tour of his life and discography at The Delta Blues Museum here, it’s actually an awesome site the way they have it set up, definitely worth your time to check it out and get a cool visual on his travels and more facts on his life.
~ Eddie James “Son” House, Jr. (March 21, 1902 – October 19, 1988) was an American blues singer and guitarist, noted for his highly emotional style of singing and slide guitar playing.
After years of hostility to secular music, as a preacher, and for a few years also as a church pastor, he turned to blues performance at the age of 25. He quickly developed a unique style by applying the rhythmic drive, vocal power and emotional intensity of his preaching to the newly learned idiom. In a short career interrupted by a spell in Parchman Farm penitentiary, he developed to the point that Charley Patton, the foremost blues artist of the Mississippi Delta region, invited him to share engagements, and to accompany him to a 1930 recording session for Paramount Records.
Issued at the start of The Great Depression, the records did not sell and did not lead to national recognition. Locally, Son remained popular, and in the 1930s, together with Patton’s associate, Willie Brown, he was the leading musician of Coahoma County. There he was a formative influence on Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. In 1941 and 1942, House and the members of his band were recorded by Alan Lomax and John W. Work for Library of Congress and Fisk University. The following year, he left the Delta for Rochester, New York, and gave up music.
In 1964, a group of young record collectors discovered House, whom they knew of from his records issued by Paramount and by the Library of Congress. With their encouragement, he relearned his style and repertoire and enjoyed a career as an entertainer to young white audiences in the coffee houses, folk festivals and concert tours of the American folk music revival billed as a “folk blues” singer. He recorded several albums, and some informally taped concerts have also been issued as albums. Son House died in 1988.
In addition to his early influence on Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, he became an inspiration to John Hammond, Alan Wilson (of Canned Heat), Bonnie Raitt, The White Stripes, Dallas Green and John Mooney.