Tampa Red/












Tampa Red was born in Smithville, Georgia on January 8,1904. He was orphaned when he was only a few years old and went to live with his grandparents in Tampa, Florida, who brought him up. His birth name was Woodbridge but he was given the surname of his grandparents, Whittaker. He got his nickname as a young man from his red hair and his Tampa upbringing. Although he used Whittaker when he first began performing, he couldn't lose the nickname and instead he decided to adopt it professionally. He first worked as a guitarist and singer on the vaudeville circuit in Florida and neighbouring States but he moved to Chicago when he was in his early twenties. There he hooked up with Thomas Dorsey and they formed a close collaborative friendship, working together on a new kind of blues they called hokum (light rhythmical songs filled with lyrical double-entendres). Together they wrote and recorded the hit "It's Tight Like That", and continued to sing together as the Hokum boys until 1930 when Tom Dorsey began to play gospel music.

Tampa Red had amazing talent with the guitar and slide and was often known as "The Guitar Wizard", becoming one of the first big stars of Chicago's blues scene. He was also a prolific composer and wrote many memorable songs such as  "Anna Lou Blues", "Black Angel Blues", and "It Hurts Me Too". He was also very close, both personally and professionally with Big Bill Broonzy, and it was Broonzy who related the lengths that Tampa Red would go to help other less successful musicians by offering them a meal and a bed, and helping them to get bookings. He carried on performing and recording throughout the lean years of the Depression but he eventually retired in 1953 after having recorded more than 300 sides. A man who always liked a drink, he blamed this for the health problems he suffered in his later years and particularly after his wife died in 1955. He did record once more in 1960 as interest in the blues was revived but gave up music permanently after this. He died in a nursing home in Chicago in 1981 aged 77 years old. He was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame the same year.