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Genuine negro blues in the style the negro likes. Be sure to demonstrate this record to every negro that comes to your counter. Tell them it is made by a real negro - ARC 1931 dealer sheet plugging a Collins release, quoted by Chris Smith, notes from Yazoo's Crying Sam Collins, Jail House Blues

Author Topic: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians  (Read 7386 times)

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Offline uncle bud

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Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« on: May 30, 2007, 08:03:58 AM »
While poking through the Penguin Guide to Blues Recordings recently and reading the section on Jazz Gillum, I was reminded that Gillum met his end by being fatally shot in an argument. This was later in life, in 1966. I was then trying to think of other blues musicians who'd been murdered, since it's so often characterized as a dangerous profession. I'm sure it was indeed dangerous, but still wonder how many blues guys and gals actually got done in violently like this.

I couldn't actually come up with that many. Scrapper Blackwell died much the same way as Gillum, shot in a fight in the 1960s. And of course there's Robert Johnson, whose legend is perhaps responsible for the murdered bluesman archetype, like it is for a number of other blues mythologies. Searching the forum, I see that Maylon Harney (Hacksaw's brother) was murdered at a young age. And Paul Geremia tells a story of Hambone Willie Newbern being beaten to death by guards in prison - I don't recall seeing that documented elsewhere so don't know the exact facts.

Any others?

LoneWolf

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2007, 09:27:57 AM »
John Lee Williamson was murdered, I think.

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2007, 09:29:46 AM »
Pinetop Smith...

Offline tenderfoot84

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2007, 09:34:50 AM »
didn't charley lincoln die in a prison brawl in the 30's?
Cheerybye,
David C

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2007, 09:54:47 AM »
didn't charley lincoln die in a prison brawl in the 30's?
'Fraid not but as a result of a brain hemorrhage, September 1963.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2007, 09:58:37 AM »
And Paul Geremia tells a story of Hambone Willie Newbern being beaten to death by guards in prison - I don't recall seeing that documented elsewhere so don't know the exact facts.
Wow UB haven't heard that one for decades. I'll have to apply the "little grey cells" to the task but think it was something recounted in interview by somebody like Estes, or Big Joe or, or, or.... :)

Offline Rivers

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2007, 04:28:43 PM »
Good topic Bud. Delving into the details of each case might be very interesting.

Sonny Boy Williamson #1 was indeed dreadfully done-in on his way home from the Plantation Club, St Louis, June 1 1948, 59th anniversary is tomorrow I notice. 17 holes in the head from an icepick. Apparently a robbery, wallet, harps and watch were all stolen. Blind John Davis told another story, that it was the lesbian lover of a gal he'd been to visit who'd returned home unexpectedly and attacked Sonny Boy when he rang the bell. Info is from the Bluebird liner notes.

Son Bonds. Shot to death on his front porch in Dyersburg TN, 1947, mistaken identity.

Scrapper Blackwell. Shot to death in an alley during a mugging in Indianapolis, October 7, 1962

Offline banjochris

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2007, 05:37:31 PM »
Fiddler/guitarist Prince Albert Hunt was shot to death by a jealous husband (boyfriend?) in 1929 or so. I've seen reproductions of the newspaper article.

Didn't Little Walter die in a fight or somesuch?

I also seem to remember some comment about Hambone Willie Newbern's death either in "Chasing the Devil Music" or the Charlie Patton biography -- I remember the quote that he "wouldn't work for nobody."
Chris

Offline Johnm

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2007, 06:15:52 PM »
Hi all,
Roy Lee Centers, a superlative lead singer and rhythm guitarist with Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys in the 1970s was murdered by a jealous husband/boyfriend.
All best,
Johnm

Offline banjochris

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2007, 09:39:08 PM »
Atlanta harmonica player Eddie Mapp was murdered in November 1931 -- an artery severed and left to bleed to death in the street. Piano Red said he was stabbed by a jealous boyfriend on page 114 of Bruce Bastin's "Red River Blues."

Also, an interesting and probably much longer thread would be blues musicians who killed somebody -- I'll start the list with:

Son House (not sure if he killed the guy or just shot him)
Booker White
Robert Pete Williams
Skip James (at least he said he did)
Jimmie Strothers
Buddy Moss
Pat Hare (who played with Muddy Waters, IIRC)
and, on the country side, Spade Cooley.

I'm sure there's plenty more...
Chris

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2007, 09:09:59 AM »
Also, an interesting and probably much longer thread would be blues musicians who killed somebody -- I'll start the list with:

Add Funny Papa Smith.

Alex

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #11 on: May 31, 2007, 09:55:28 AM »
Also, an interesting and probably much longer thread would be blues musicians who killed somebody -- I'll start the list with:
[cut]
Pat Hare (who played with Muddy Waters, IIRC)
Who on 14th May 1954 recorded the prophetic "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby" for Sun Records. A decade later (1964)he did away with his girlfriend! The song remained unreleased until the 70s when it was found to be Dr Clayton's Cheating & Lying Blues....

Offline banjochris

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #12 on: May 31, 2007, 10:26:55 AM »
Oh, and Leadbelly (on the killers list, not the killees, obviously).
Chris

Offline jostber

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #13 on: June 01, 2007, 02:47:30 AM »
Also, an interesting and probably much longer thread would be blues musicians who killed somebody -- I'll start the list with:
[cut]
Pat Hare (who played with Muddy Waters, IIRC)
Who on 14th May 1954 recorded the prophetic "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby" for Sun Records. A decade later (1964)he did away with his girlfriend! The song remained unreleased until the 70s when it was found to be Dr Clayton's Cheating & Lying Blues....

The Pat Hare Story:

http://www.rockabillyeurope.com/references/messages/pat_hare.htm

Offline LusciousLucy

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #14 on: June 01, 2007, 04:25:14 AM »
Regarding bluesmen who killed sb: R.L. Burnside

cit. from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/09/03/db0302.xml
"
After Burnside returned to Mississippi, he shot a man who, he claimed, had been attempting to run him out of his home. Although he was convicted of murder, the story goes that he had served only three months in jail when a plantation owner persuaded a judge to release him, saying he needed Burnside to work during the cotton-planting season.

"I didn't mean to kill nobody," Burnside later said of the murder. "I just meant to shoot the sonofabitch in the head. Him dying was between him and the Lord."
"
...
hm :-\ 

Cheers Luzi
« Last Edit: June 01, 2007, 04:44:48 AM by LusciousLucy »

dabluz

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #15 on: June 01, 2007, 05:24:18 AM »
what about the immortal robert johnson.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #16 on: June 01, 2007, 06:13:24 AM »
"I didn't mean to kill nobody," Burnside later said of the murder. "I just meant to shoot the sonofabitch in the head. Him dying was between him and the Lord."

Mark, I think Luzi has one for the quote generator.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #17 on: June 01, 2007, 07:21:22 AM »
what about the immortal robert johnson.
See first post in this topic.-G-

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #18 on: June 01, 2007, 10:11:13 AM »
The Pat Hare Story:
http://www.rockabillyeurope.com/references/messages/pat_hare.htm
Not bad for a rockabilly page, but the "half ain't been told". From 1973 blues fan Kevin Hahn began visiting and corresponding with Hare right up until his death. The entire story was told by Hahn in "Pat Hare: A Blues Guitarist." (Juke Blues 23 Summer 1991, p. 8-15 - click cover image to enlarge). The feature contains chunks of correspondence between the pair, a copy of Hare's official police statement given on December 16 1963 as well as other interesting artefacts such as Hahn's invitation to speak on behalf of hare at a parole application held on April 19, 1974.
« Last Edit: June 01, 2007, 10:13:06 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline Coyote Slim

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #19 on: June 03, 2007, 12:46:31 PM »
Amede Ardoin, one of the pioneers of Creole and Cajun music, was reportedly beaten so badly by some rednecks (he had apparently accepted a handkerchief to wipe the sweat from his brow offered to him by a white girl) that he ended up in an asylum where later died..
Puttin' on my Carrhartts, I gotta work out in the field.

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Offline hortig78rpm

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #20 on: June 08, 2009, 12:36:58 AM »
the violent athmosp?re and the rugged life of the blues pianists killed many of them:
-buster pickens, murdered in a quarell about a crap game by a cousin
-wilson thunder smith was shot in a drunken "fight"
-memphis piano red williams was stabbed by burglars
-walter roland was shot to blind when he tried to solve an argument with neighbours

many of them had been hustlers or gamblers too.

regards
mike

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #21 on: June 08, 2009, 04:48:20 AM »
Shit! And I thought all I had to do was pick cotton for twenty years. Ya mean I got to kill somebody too?
Well anything for Art! ;)
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
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Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #22 on: June 08, 2009, 07:01:12 AM »
Shit! And I thought all I had to do was pick cotton for twenty years. Ya mean I got to kill somebody too?
Well anything for Art! ;)

Oh yeah? How much cotton have you been picking in New York??  Maybe picking Elizabeth CottEn off the shelf to play.....  ;) Speaking personally, I have enough trouble over here in southern England pickin' my parlor.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2009, 07:04:12 AM by Parlor Picker »
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Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #23 on: June 08, 2009, 08:40:27 AM »
Its been on my "to do" list.
1. Pick cotton for twenty years
2. Do laundry
3. buy food
4. Refill windshield wiper fluid
and now
5. Kill or be killed in Blues appropriate manner

Be patient fer chrissakes.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #24 on: June 08, 2009, 09:07:44 AM »
On a serious note, its easy to form some romanticized notion of the adventurous life of Blues musicians and read their very real sufferings as emblems of authenticity for the purpose of our entertainment (witness my previous posts) rather than the inevitable outcome of an outrageously unjust system of exploitation that thrives on pitting people against each other. The Scrapper Blackwell story in particular is profoundly sad to me.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #25 on: June 09, 2009, 12:54:23 AM »
Too right O'Muck. It's OK for us to have a laugh, but the reality of a lot of those situations doesn't bear thinking about. Maybe that's part of the reason we have to inject some humour - laughing to keep from crying, and all that.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline Coyote Slim

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #26 on: June 10, 2009, 03:03:37 PM »
I seem to recall something about Son Seals being shot... he didn't die of it, though.

Mr. O'muck -- just remember, as you read these depressing stories, that shooting yourself doesn't count.
Puttin' on my Carrhartts, I gotta work out in the field.

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Offline harry

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #27 on: March 02, 2016, 07:40:12 AM »
Found out that Ed Bell was possibly murdered due to his involvement in the civil rights movement.

Offline Pontius2000

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #28 on: March 14, 2016, 04:47:47 PM »
I know it's not really provable one way or other, but I personally don't buy that Robert Johnson was murdered. I think he simply died of (unintentional) alcohol poisoning, which was a pretty common death in those days.

I know Son House claimed he was arrested for murder, but I don't think any evidence of such an arrest was ever found. I kind of think Son was prone to tall tales.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #29 on: March 16, 2016, 12:05:58 AM »
I know Son House claimed he was arrested for murder, but I don't think any evidence of such an arrest was ever found. I kind of think Son was prone to tall tales.
You can read about House and his 1955 incarceration (and eventual release) in Dan Beaumont's House biography. My copy of the book is currently on loan - from memory it gives chapter & verse on the event.

Offline StoogeKebab

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #30 on: March 17, 2016, 12:39:36 AM »
I have the police report from October 8 1955 right here in front of me at present, and it reads as follows:

"Willie Junior Patterson was stabbed by Eddie James House" I can't read it all well enough to transcribe it. It would appear House turned himself in at 6:02 the morning (the stabbing occurred in the early hours of that morning), going to someone's house and insisting they "call the police because he had killed a man." He was charged at 6:30 with 1st degree manslaughter.
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Offline DonRocin

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #31 on: March 18, 2016, 08:57:35 AM »
Geeshie Wiley: "I?m gonna cut your throat baby/gonna look down in your face"?and, according to Sullivan?s recent article, she did just that.

Offline Randy Meadows

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #32 on: March 21, 2016, 09:24:06 PM »
Hayes McMullen and Willie Moore talk about a few murdered musicians from the early 1900s in their interviews with Wardlow recorded in 1968.

http://deltabluesfolkgospelandmore.tumblr.com/post/68907158843/gayle-dean-wardlow-research-interviews
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Offline Johnm

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #33 on: September 21, 2018, 09:26:12 AM »
Hi all,
I just discovered on wikipedia while searching for biographical information on Virgil Childers that he was shot and killed by a policeman in 1939 while trying to escape from police custody.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Mike Billo

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #34 on: September 22, 2018, 08:56:21 AM »
Jazz Gillum

Offline jharris

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #35 on: September 24, 2018, 10:25:04 AM »
Two more:

-Pianist Buster Pickens - from the notes to his Document release: "In his last years Pickens played with Hop Wilson at local gigs and was Lightnin? Hopkins' regular piano player. The promise of a new career in the blues revival ended tragically when he was shot and killed at age forty-eight by a cousin at the N.R. Lounge, a beer joint in Houston, on November 24, 1964. The report of his murder reached Hopkins, touring Europe at the time, who was deeply distressed by the news."

-Lee Jackson was murdered during in a family quarrel on July 1, 1979. My friend Axel K?stner recorded him in an acoustic setting May 13, 1978.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #36 on: September 24, 2018, 10:35:48 AM »
Jazz Gillum and Buster Pickens were both posted earlier in the thread.

Offline Nyama74

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #37 on: September 30, 2018, 06:37:02 PM »
T-Model Ford talks about killing someone in a knife fight in the "You See Me Laughin': The Last of the Hill Country Bluesmen" documentary.

Sounds like it was legitimately self-defense in his case, though.

Offline mtzionmemorialfund

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #38 on: October 06, 2018, 02:21:25 AM »
Henry Simms ran over a little girl in a pickup truck outside of Farrell, MS.
Charley Patton's guitar playing brother, Son Patton, was shot in Mound Bayou in 1919.
Clarence Johnson, the younger brother of Tommy Johnson, was killed at a juke near Crystal Springs, MS.

Many blues artists, after living less than pious lives, met with a fitting end.  Having supposedly made a deal with the devil at the crossroads, Robert Johnson seemed to have hellhounds on his trail in mid-August 1938 at age twenty-seven, when his condition steadily worsened over the course of three days until he died in a convulsive state of severe pain near Greenwood, Mississippi.  Willie Bunch, better known as Peetie Wheatsraw, the Devil?s Son-in-Law, the High Sheriff of Hell, was a passenger in the back seat of a friend?s Buick on his 39th birthday, December 21, 1941, when some friends decided to take a drive and struck a standing freight train, instantly killing both men in the front seat and dealing out a fatal head injury to Bunch who died in a St. Louis hospital some hours later.  Both John Lee ?Sonny Boy? Williamson and Memphis Piano Red were beaten to within an inch of their lives and later died from their injuries.  Having supposedly lived an easy life of secular pleasure outside of the church, the brutal violence of their last moments contrasted sharply with lives not devoted to hard work and thrift.  In the minds of God-fearing church folks, their violent deaths only served as a gateway for an eternity that awaited them in the fires of hell.  Most folks never had to sell their souls, only pick up a bottle or an instrument, perhaps even an accordion?

The blues artist who fell victim to the most violent death was rumored to have been an accordion player named Walter ?Pat? Rhodes, who, in fact, was the first blues artist from the Delta to record for a major label.  In 1927,  he recorded four tunes with Richard ?Can? and Mylar ?Pet? Harney, including one later covered by Charley Patton called ?The Crowing Rooster,? for Columbia Records in Memphis, Tennessee.  Less than a year later, Mylar Harney had been killed outside a juke joint in Arkansas and several informants of Memphis Blues author Bengt Ollsson reported that Rhodes died later in the 1940s ?after being struck by lightning.?  The informants of Stephen Calt and Gayle Dean Wardlow, moreover, recalled that the lightning had struck and killed him in Alligator, Mississippi.  Indeed, the accounts of several people seemed to suggest that the life of the Delta musician who had first put the blues on record had been abruptly taken from him in a flash of light come down from the heavens seemingly out of the hand of God himself.

But did it really happen?  Did the first ever blues musician from the Delta to make a recording meet such a vicious end?  And who in the world was Rhodes? 
« Last Edit: October 06, 2018, 05:25:10 AM by mtzionmemorialfund »
T. DeWayne Moore
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Offline harry

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Re: Unnatural Causes - murdered blues musicians
« Reply #39 on: March 31, 2020, 03:31:30 PM »
Tail Dragger murdered Boston Blackie in 1993.



 


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