Today is the birthday of Big Bill Broonzy (Lee Conley Bradley, 1893-1958). An Arkansas sharecropper, he originally played a fiddle made out of a cigar box, but switched to guitar in 1920 when he moved to Chicago when he began to study with Papa Charlie Jackson, a veteran of minstrel and medicine shows. He made his first recording in 1927, but it wasn’t until 1934, when he began performing with a full band and “urbanized” his sound that his records really began to sell. In 1938 and 1939 through folklorist John Hammond he was able to play in concerts at Carnegie Hall. His influence continued to spread throughout the 40s and 50s. He died of throat cancer in 1958.
In his last few years, due to the folk revival he reverted to a country blues sound as typified by this clip, recorded the year before he died.
To find out about the history of show business, 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 check out 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