Blind LEMON JEFFERSON
Lemon Jefferson was born in 1893 in Couchman , near Wortham, Texas, and was either blind, or almost blind, at birth. When he was in his late teens, he moved to Dallas where he teamed up with a young T-Bone Walker. Walker would lead Jefferson around the streets of Dallas, busking on street corners for spare change. He was a big, strong man and he also utilised these attributes as a wrestler to supplement his income. It is not clear whether he was totally blind as there are historical reports that he was quite a poker player and that he always carried a pistol. It may be that he was able to see a little, possibly wearing strong spectacles. As Jefferson's reputation as a musician grew he travelled extensively, performing around the Mississippi Delta, Georgia, Memphis, the West Virginia coal camps and the Carolinas. In 1925 a Dallas record store owner heard him performing and recommended him to Paramount Records. The following year he moved to Chicago to start his recording career with Paramount, although Jefferson was also to record two sides for the Okeh label in 1927, "Matchbox Blues" and "That Black Snake Moan." He wrote many original songs that became classics, e.g. the song "See That My Grave is Kept Clean" has been recorded by countless artists, becoming one of the most recorded pieces of country blues music. For some reason Jefferson released his gospel/spiritual recordings such as this using the pseudonym Deacon L.J. Bates.
Blind Lemon recorded more than eighty songs between 1926 and 1929 in what turned out to be a very short career, more than 40 of them being released. He was an innovative virtuoso on guitar who was one of the very first artists to employ single-string riffs and lead-type lines as accompaniment to his vocal. He would alternate these intricate melodic structures with thumping bass string runs. Sometimes he would simply follow his vocal lines with freely improvised, loosely rhythmic guitar figures. During the winter of 1929-30 he returned to Chicago to record again and attended a friend's house party, leaving late at night. The most common reason cited for his death is that tragically, in the midst of a violent snowstorm, he got lost on the back streets of a city that he did not know well, and froze to death alone whilst waiting for a lift back to Texas, possibly after having a heart attack. However some sources maintain that Jefferson died as the result of a mugging whilst on his way to the Railway Station in order to return to Texas. Whatever the truth, Jefferson's body was returned to Texas and he was buried in a cemetery in Wortham, where today a marker and citation exist.
Black Snake Moan