(1902 - 1988)

(born March 21, 1902, Riverton, Mississippi; 
died October 19, 1988, Detroit, Michigan)

A major blues figure, Son House, born Eddie James, Jr., was one of the originators of the Mississippi Delta blues style.  House developed early delta blues in the 1920s and the 1930s with his irregular, often furious guitar work and his intensely emotional vocals. 

So profound was House's blues style that he was the main influence of the legendary blues man Robert Johnson, as well as Muddy Waters.

House sang and played his guitar with compelling urgency and conviction.  His brand of the blues was streaked with both preacher passion and raw, manly desires, which seemed to turn many of his songs into battles between good and evil.

House was born on a Delta plantation.  Early on he took up with the church and actually became a Baptist pastor by the time he turned twenty; but, he straddled the sacred and secular worlds which led to troubles with women and alcohol.  He had also discovered the power of the blues. 

After spending time in Louisiana in the early 1920s, House returned to the Delta in 1926 and learned how to play guitar.

In 1930, he recorded sides for Paramount.  In 1941, Alan Lomax recorded Son House for the Library of Congress.  Lomax returned in 1942 and recorded House a second time.  The following year, House moved to Rochester, New York, and simply disappeared from the blues scene until 1964. 

Hailed as the greatest surviving original Delta blues man, House became a hero to the young, white, folk-blues crowd of the early '60s.  He performed at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival; a year later he played Carnegie Hall and signed a recording contract with CBS Records.

Robert Santelli:  The Big Book of Blues:  A Biographical Encyclopedia


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