What follows is extracted from an interview conducted by Mack McCormick with Lightnin' Hopkins in Houston, October 1959 and serialised over three issues of Jazz Journal (Nov. 1960, Jan & Feb 1961. His reaction on hearing and seeing a photo of Josh White has been one of the interview classics of all time.
M: Sam, I'm going to play some records and you tell me what you think of them . . .
(In response to Blind Lemon Jefferson's Peach Orchard Mama.)
S: Yeah, that's Blind Lemon Jefferson. I don't think I ever heard him sing that one before. You know, some of his records I didn't like too much. Those where they put a piano with him I didn't like at all.
M: On the cover of this LP there's a photo of a guitar on the side of a freight car. Is that the kind Lemon used?
S: Not when I knew him. No, that's the make—I mean he had a round-hole box—but it's new style the way they got it there. His guitar was straight. Didn't have them yokes in it. Then too, so long a time, he probably may have got him one like that. See, when I knew him it was before he went O making records. He left and went to Dallas County and that's the last I ever saw of him—but later on I heard him on the records that was coming out.
(In response to Lonnie Johnson's Backwater Blues. King.)
Lonnie Johnson. That's him. I knowed Lonnie around Ft Worth and Dallas and around.
(In response to Dan Pickett's Baby, How Long. Gotham.)
No, I can't place him. It's a bottle he's using up and down the strings—that's what make it sound like it does. I do that sometimes—get a whiskey bottle bout empty and go to sliding it on the strings, make them notes hang on.
(In response to Johnny William's [John Lee Hooker] House Rent Boogie, Gotham.)
That might be John Lee Hooker. Yeah, that's who. Now, that there, that's the barrelhouse piano type of thing you was asking about. They used to do it on piano, some people do it the same way on guitar—barrelhouse style. Boogie for dancing.
(In response to Lightnin Hopkins' Lightnin Boogie. Gold Star.)
Now, there, that's what I mean . . . yeah, that sounds like Lightnin Hopkins. That's like the barrelhouse piano.
M: Who's that tap dancing?
S: That's L. C. Williams . . . 'See ain't that good . . . I'm fixing to have a ball . . . I'm looking at the little girl way over yonder. . . '
M: On some records, you did the tap dancing didn't you?
S: Some was L. C., then some I did it myself. Put bottle caps on my shoes, make a trap—then I just sit there doing the tap dancing same time as I'm playing. That was me on the records I made the time I went to New York and then on some I made here—I think it was for Mercury.
(In response to Tommy McClennan's Bottle Up and Go. Bluebird.)
That man—I don't know his name, but I've heard him but I don't think he's from around here. That's an old song I still like to sing.
(In response to Josh White's Careless Love. Stinson.)
Now, that's funny. I mean—who is that? Is that some white man singing there? The guitar, now he can sure cut that guitar —but still and all it sounds funny. What I mean, it's not real blues.
M: That's Josh White. I'm afraid he's been in New York too long.
S: This picture, that him? Well, he sure don't sound like no blues man—but he looks black, black as me. Guess he has been in New York too long.
(In response to Smokey Hogg's Dark Clouds. Meteor.)
Yeah, that's Smokey—he's from up in the Piney Woods. He's around here a lot. You know they say he's Texas Alexander's son—but I mean it wasn't put down that way so I don't really know about it. He oughta be back around here pretty soon.
M: One day, you remember, he was visiting you and I came over just a half-hour after he'd left.
S: He went back up around Tyler, I guess.
(In response to Lil Son Jackson's Doctor, Doctor. Imperial.)
Now, this boy, you know I taught him. He's up in Dallas now, got him a little band. But when I was recording for Quinn— you know, Gold Star records—I took him out there and he made some records for Quinn. Lil Son, Smokey, and me, and T-bone Walker—you see we're all about the same age. Sometimes I went around with them others but not too much. T-bone came from around Conroe.
(In response to Leadbelly's Black Snake Moan.)
Now, that's Blind Lemon's song. But I don't know who it is. 'Oh-oh, you ain't got no mama now . . . ' I used play along behind Blind Lemon on that one. That's a 12-string guitar. I used to play that some but don't no more.
M: A friend of yours from Centerville told me that a Mexican fellow named Sevelle was the first man playing 12 string guitar around Leon County.
S: That could be. I remember it was some Mexican played it but I don't know what his name was. This fellow on the record, where'd he come from?
M: Caddo Lake. He was born around there but he traveled all around East Texas. Silver City, Waco, Dallas, and he was here in Houston in 1925 and 1926.
S: I might of known him . . .
M: He spent quite a bit of time at Central 2.
S: Oh, well, I could have missed him then. I never was in the Brazos bottom. The prison I was in, it was second to the bottom. It was the County farm. Not exactly the penitentiary. He was down at Sugarland, huh? Yeah, well, I could have missed him easy.
(In response to Lightnin Hopkins' Abilene. Aladdin.)
S: Well, that's him again.
M: What is this song?
S: I tell—you gonna have to wait. I had so many that start the same way, you couldn't tell till you go to singing. . . . Oh, yeah, now . . . ' . . . stop by Abilene'. That's the West Texas Blues. '. . . house painted green'.
M: What kind of house was that in Abilene?
S: Green house! It was a green house with some pretty girls there.
M: Well, what'd those girls do?
S: You know how that is—they was attractive. Yeah, you stop by there you see some pretty girls.
(In response to Lightnin Hopkins' Going To Galveston. Lightnin plays piano on this song.)
That's the one for my li'tle wife Antonnette, Nettie. We used to go down to Galveston a lots and we 'stop by that old cafe' just like I'm singing it.
(In response to John Lomax' Take A Whiff On Me.)
Now that is a white man. That's the one who was at the Alley Theater concert with me. Now he's got it. That night he sang 'Long gone like a turkey thru the corn' only it was different than the way I sing it. He's got it about Long John and I sing it 'If I'd a listened to what my momma said, I'd be home in that snow white iron bed'.
(In response to Rev. M. B. Burnett's Do You Know Him. Blind Texas evangelist.)
Some people say I got a voice like a preacher—you know, heavy. I been told I ought to line em out like this man does. Course I'm like a preacher, I got to keep hearing that 'Amen!' from my congregation just the same as a preacher.