Blind Lemon Jefferson

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Today is the birthday of blues legend Lemon Henry “Blind Lemon” Jefferson (1893-1929). Born blind to a sharecropping family in East Texas, Jefferson learned to play in his teens, performing at parties and picnics, and soon playing on city streets in towns like Dallas for cash, where Lead Belly was one of his cohorts, and T-Bone Walker an early apprentice.

Starting in 1925, Jefferson was one of the very first bluesmen to be recorded solo (just himself and a guitar) and his success was instrumental in the popularization of the blues in the 1920s. There are half a dozen stories about how he died in 1929; the one I’ve heard most often is that he suffered a heart attack while walking alone in a snowstorm.

Here’s a measure of his influence. I’ve heard versions of this “Match Box” tune by everyone from Leadbelly to Carl Perkins to The Beatles.

To find out more about show business past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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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

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