Blues Calendar Blues - Lightnin' Hopkins

I’ve mentioned in these pages a couple of times how I came to learn about Texas blues. Briefly, I was schooled by a white woman, which on its face seems odd, but she knew her stuff – and she could play an awesome guitar.

One of the progenitors of Texas blues was Sam “Lightnin’” Hopkins, who is this month’s featured artist on my blues calendar. From the calendar’s notes:
From a family of musicians, Hopkins (1912-1982) played at fairs and frolics, dives and bars, on the streets and in buses. But it was earlier, long before he recorded with Thunder Smith and took a complimentary nickname, that Hopkins shared a stage – if you can call a truck bed a stage – with his greatest influence, “Blind” Lemon Jefferson. Hopkins was right when he saw 23-year-old Jefferson perform at a picnic: “That man was picking that guitar, and I just felt it was in me.” Bold enough to try playing along on a guitar he’d built himself, the boy was invited onstage.

The number and variety of stages from which Lightnin’ Hopkins sent out his largely improvised music exceeded that of any other traditional blues player. After a raft of recordings made in the forties and fifties, he lapsed into obscurity until the fold music movement drew him into a different spotlight, which he shared with the likes of Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and the Grateful Dead.
The notes also suggest the short documentary “The Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins,” a 1969 film directed by Les Blank.

The Handbook of Texas Online has a short biography of Hopkins, who was born in Centerville, Texas, and died in Houston. In 2002, the town of Crockett, Texas, erected a statue in Hopkins’ honor. It stands in Lightnin’ Hopkins Park.

Let Me Play With Your Poodle.mp3
Lightnin’s Boogie.mp3
Jake Head Boogie.mp3
Lonesome Dog Boogie.mp3



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