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Blind Willie McTell

From Academic Kids

Blind Willie McTell (May 5, 1901August 15, 1959) (probably born William Samuel McTear) was an influential blues singer and guitarist. He was born in Thomson, Georgia and died in Milledgeville, Georgia.

McTell was a twelve-string finger picking guitarist and singer, who recorded from 1927 to 1955. One of his most famous songs, "Statesboro Blues" has been covered by many artists including Taj Mahal and The Allman Brothers Band, and Bob Dylan wrote and recorded a tribute to him.

Blind from birth, and an adept reader of Braille, McTell showed an inherent proficiency in music from an early age and learnt to play the six string guitar as soon as he could. His father left the family when McTell was still young, so when his mother died in the 1920s he left his hometown and became a wandering busker. He began his recording career in 1927 for Victor Records of Atlanta.

In the years before World War II, he recorded prodigiously, for a wide variety of labels under an equal variety of names, but his style was singular — a form of country blues, bridging the gap between the raw blues of the Mississippi Delta and the more refined East Coast sound. The style is well documented on Alan Lomax's 1940 recordings of McTell for the Library of Congress. Post-war, he recorded briefly for Atlantic Records, but the recordings met with less commercial success than his previous works. He continued performing some live shows in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, but his continued career was cut short by ill health, predominantly diabetes. In 1959, a year after the death of his wife of 24 years, he died of a stroke.

In 1981, Bob Dylan used the folk melody of the "St. James Infirmary Blues" to write a tribute song for McTell. A Blues Festival in McTell's honor is held annually in his home town of Thomson, Georgia.

Known sessionography

  • 1927-10-18th - Atlanta, Georgia
    • Writing Paper Blues
    • Stole Rider Blues
    • Mama, Tain't Long Fo' Day
    • Mr. McTell Got The Blues (Take 1)
    • Mr. McTell Got The Blues (Take 2)
  • 1928-10-17 Atlanta, Georgia
    • Three Women Blues
    • Dark Night Blues
    • Statesboro Blues
    • Loving Talking Blues
  • 1929-10-30 Atlanta, Georgia
    • Atlanta Strut
    • Travelin' Blues
    • Come On Around To My House Mama
    • Kind Mama
  • 1929-11-25 Atlanta, Georgia
    • Teasing Brown
  • 1929-11-26 Atlanta, Georgia
    • Drive Away Blues
  • 1929-11-27 Atlanta, Georgia
    • This Is Not The Stove To Brown Your Bread

Discography

  • The Definitive Blind Willie McTell 1927-1935 on Catfish Records (KATCD229) Presents the complete recordings (including pseudonymous works) from the period 1927-1935.
  • The Classic Years 1927-1940 on JSP Records (JSP7711) omits some recordings found on the previous set but adds his 1940 session for the Library of Congress.de:Blind Willie McTell
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