Friday, 4 October 2013

Granny's Got the Blues 1 - Bukka White

Bukka White 1909 - 1977 was an artist who stamped a  legacy on the genre of music we called the blues and although he is best known for the classic, Aberdeen Mississippi Blues he cut several songs that have become classics and influenced everyone from Led Zeppelin to the Rolling Stones.

The young Bukka or Booker T Washington White was born in Houston Mississippi. His father was a railroad worker and part time fiddle player which meant that the young boy was surrounded by music from a very young age. When he was nine his father gave him a guitar for a birthday present and from there on Bukka started to develop at a rapid pace. He left home when he was thirteen and went to Chicago where he met guitar player Johnny Smith and together they would play whatever paying gigs they could find.


Bukka's music was a mix of down home country and train songs but when he met the great Charley Patton he decided to concentrate on the blues. Legend tells us that the young Bukka had his first taste of whiskey from Charley Patton's hip flask. For a time Bukka was a professional baseball player and boxer but in 1930 he was discovered by a talent scout who whisked him off to Memphis to record for Victor Records and it was with the label that Bukka recorded fourteen tracks. For these he used the name Washington White.

The recordings were not a success and Bukka didn't records again until 1937 when Big Bill Broonzy led him to Lester Mellrose who arranged for Bukka to travel to Chicago to cut two sides for Vocalion Records. However Bukka was on bail following an incident where he shot a man who tried to assault him, and the trip to Chicago was against bail conditions.  Bukka was arrested and thrown into  the notorious Parchman Farm Penitentiary. One of the tracks Bukka recorded, Shake em Down became a hit when he was in prison.

Bukka was released in 1940 and promptly went back to Chicago to again record for Lester Mellrose - Here Bukka recorded twelve tracks that are among the best of the delta blues style. The recording session is known as the last great country blues session as shortly afterwards tastes would change and urban blues came to dominate.

Bukka White died of cancer in 1977.

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