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Blind Lemon Jefferson iTunes Tracks

Blind Lemon Jefferson

Although Lemon was one of the major blues artists of the 1920s (akin to the likes of LEADBELLY and ROBERT JOHNSON), the man’s personal beginnings and his later whereabouts were just as mysterious as his death and his unique style of music. Partially blind since birth; he’d wear small spectacles instead of dark glasses, JEFFERSON (born September 24, 1893, Coutchman, Freestone County, Texas) took to playing the streets in East Texas, Groesbeck, a place that was famously addressed in his classic song `Penitentiary Blues’. Frequenting Buffalo and Marlin, the latter the hometown of BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON, whom JEFFERSON had encountered whilst busking, his songs developed from hustling a buck from the odd bootlegger.
Soon afterwards, Lemon moved to Dallas to continue his role as a popular blues man, and met a slightly more famous LEADBELLY, who was five years his senior. The blues giant introduced JEFFERSON to his backwater community in Dallas, inviting him to play regular shows organised by the man himself. The two had struck up a strong friendship and apparently spent many nights in the “Deep Ellum” area drinking and discussing life while playing the blues until the early hours of the morn. However, this friendship was short-lived when LEADBELLY was arrested and put in prison for assault in 1918; he later paid tribute to JEFFERSON in his song `Blind Lemon Blues’ and several other pieces.
JEFFERSON’s intricate guitar playing and unusually high-pitched voice attracted much attention in the early 20s, and reputation made it possible for him to tour and travel upstate and to the South, where he spent a brief period playing most states. For an independent blues artist, JEFFERSON had to find his own way around the country and did so by using any means of transport necessary: trains, boxcars, pushbikes and sometimes cargo trains. Somehow, between 1925 and 1929, he had recorded an outstanding 100 tracks (most alternate takes), and issued 43 records on the primitive Paramount label. Lemon’s hypnotic pitch and surreal slide, plus his picked guitar formula became a standard JEFFERSON stamp, with deep and vivid lyrical imagery that threw even the likes of ROBERT JOHNSON into perplexity.
On December 19, 1929, whilst visiting Chicago, JEFFERSON died in mysterious circumstances; with the police noting on his death certificate, “cause of death: unknown”. Many believed that JEFFERSON had a heart attack or was merely killed in an accident. Texan pianist, and close friend Will Ezell, brought JEFFERSON back to his home state where he was buried in the Wortham Cemetery on New Year’s Day 1930. Unlike many of the unsung blues heroes, JEFFERSON had a keen sense of direction when it came to his music. Most of the lyrics in his songs (`See That My Grave Is Kept Clean’, `Matchbox Blues’ and `Mean Jumper Blues’, among them) suggested that he liked the traveling bluesman life, but perhaps they’re just as polysome as the figure himself. Recommended compilation: KING OF THE COUNTRY BLUES (1985/cd-1990) {*8}.
© MC Strong unpublished 2001-AS // rev-up MCS May2013

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