Playlist: Five From Blind Lemon Jefferson

Blind_Lemon_Jefferson

The playlist is at the bottom of this page. I recognize “Match Box Blues” as a song that has been modernized. Versions of “All I Want is Pure Religion” — with a slightly different name — have been done by Reverend Gary Davis and Hot Tuna, I believe.

 

Blind Lemon Jefferson is one of the most important of the original acoustic blues players. Here is the beginning of The Texas State Historical Association’s profile:

JEFFERSON, BLIND LEMON (ca. 1893–1929). Blind Lemon Jefferson, a seminal blues guitarist and songster, was born on a farm in Couchman, near Wortham, Freestone County, Texas, in the mid-1890s. Sources differ as to the exact birthdate. Census records indicate that he was born on September 24, 1893, while apparently Jefferson himself wrote the date of October 26, 1894, on his World War I draft registration. He was the son of Alec and Clarissy Banks Jefferson. His parents were sharecroppers. There are numerous contradictory accounts of where Lemon lived, performed, and died, complicated further by the lack of photographic documentation; to date, only two photographs of him have been identified, and even these are misleading. The cause of his blindness isn’t known, nor whether he had some sight.

Little is known about Jefferson’s early life. He must have heard songsters and bluesmen, like Henry “Ragtime Texas” Thomas and “Texas” Alexander. Both Thomas and Alexander traveled around East Texas and performed a variety of blues and dance tunes. Clearly, Jefferson was an heir to the blues songster tradition, though the specifics of his musical training are vague. Legends of his prowess as a bluesman abound among the musicians who heard him, and sightings of Jefferson in different places around the country are plentiful. (Continue Reading…)

AllMusic also suggested Jefferson’s importance:

Country blues guitarist and vocalist 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. Up until Jefferson‘s achievements, the only real successful blues recordings were by women performers, including Bessie Smith and Ida Cox, who usually sang songs written by others and accompanied by a band. With Jefferson came a blues artist who was solo, self-accompanied, and performing a great deal of original material in addition to the more familiar repertoire of folk standards and shouts. These originals include his most well-known songs: “Matchbox Blues,” “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” and “Black Snake Moan.” In all, Blind Lemon Jefferson recorded almost 100 songs in just a few years, making his mark on not only the bluesmen of the time (including Leadbelly and Lightnin’ Hopkins) but also on music fans in the years to come. The legacy of Jefferson‘s unique and powerful sound did not fade with the passing decades. (Continue Reading…)

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