Today is the birthday of the great Memphis blues man Sleepy John Estes (1899-1977). Born into a sharecropping family he was a field hand himself until the 1920s when he began playing and recording professionally. The first stretch of his career lasted until the World War 2 years, when he dropped out of sight and sank into poverty. He was rediscovered during the folk and blues revival of the early 1960s, beginning the second phases of his performing and recording career, which lasted until he died. His nickname came from the fact that he was famously lethargic, often drifting off to sleep even in social situations. He was also partially blind since the age of 19, from a rock thrown into his face during a baseball game.
For more on show biz past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc