Tampa Red: Hokum Boy

Tampa Red (1903-1981) was one of the most influential and prolific of early blues guitar plays. Born Hudson Woodridge in Smithville Georgia, he was orphaned as a young child and went to live with relatives in Tampa, Florida, taking their surname of Whittaker. Obvious his handle came from the town where he was raised, and the reddish coloring of his hair.

Tampa Red learned to play guitar from an older brother and a street musician named Piccolo Pete, and was to become renowned for his own style of single-string bottleneck slide playing. In his 20s, he moved to Chicago, where he first attracted attention backing Ma Rainey. From 1928 to 1932 he partnered with Georgia Tom (Tom Dorsey, not the famous swing musician, who is usually known as Tommy), often billed as the Hokum Boys or Tampa Red’s Hokum Jug Band. He laid down nearly 90 tracks with Dorsey. Having recorded 335 songs throughout his career, 250 of them by 1942, he is considered one of the most prolific of early blues recording artists. His last recording was made in 1960. After Dorsey, he recorded with Sonny Boy Williamson, Memphis Minnie, Big Maceo and others. He is said to have influenced Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Big Bill Broonzy, and Mose Allison.

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