Monday, 6 January 2014

Featured Artist: Lightnin' Hopkins

Sam John Hopkins
(March 15, 1912 – January 30, 1982),
Born Sam John Hopkins in Centerville, Texas, Hopkins' childhood was immersed in the sounds of the blues and he developed a deeper appreciation at the age of 8 when he met Blind Lemon Jeffersonmat a church picnic in Buffalo, Texas. That day, Hopkins felt the blues was "in him" and went on to learn from his older (somewhat distant) cousin, country blues singer Alger 'Texas' Alexander. Hopkins had another cousin, the Texas electric blues guitarist Frankie Lee Sims, with whom he later recorded. Hopkins began accompanying Blind Lemon Jefferson on guitar in informal church gatherings. Jefferson supposedly never let anyone play with him except for young Hopkins, who learned much from and was influenced greatly by Blind Lemon Jefferson thanks to these gatherings. In the mid-1930s, Hopkins was sent to Houston County Prison Farm for an unknown offense. In the late 1930s, Hopkins moved to Houston with Alexander in an unsuccessful attempt to break into the music scene there. By the early 1940s, he was back in Centerville working as a farm hand.
Hopkins took a second shot at Houston in 1946. While singing on Dowling St. in Houston's Third Ward (which would become his home base), he was discovered by Lola Anne Cullum from the Los Angeles-based record label Aladdin Records. She convinced Hopkins to travel to Los Angeles, where he accompanied pianist Wilson Smith. The duo recorded twelve tracks in their first sessions in 1946. An Aladdin Records executive decided the pair needed more dynamism in their names and dubbed Hopkins "Lightnin'" and Wilson "Thunder".
Hopkins recorded more sides for Aladdin in 1947. He returned to Houston and began recording for the Gold Star Records label. During the late 1940s and 1950s Hopkins rarely performed outside Texas. However, he recorded prolifically, occasionally traveling to the Mid-West and Eastern United States for recording sessions and concert appearances. It has been estimated that he recorded between 800 and 1000 songs during his career. He performed regularly at clubs in and around Houston, particularly in Dowling St. where he had first been discovered. He recorded his hits "T-Model Blues" and "Tim Moore's Farm" at Sugar Hill Recording Studios in Houston. By the mid to late 1950s, his prodigious output of quality recordings had gained him a following among African Americans and blues music aficionados.
In 1959, Hopkins was contacted by folklorist Mack McCormick who hoped to bring him to the attention of the broader musical audience which was caught up in the folk festival. McCormick presented Hopkins to integrated audiences first in Houston and then in California. Hopkins debuted at Carmegie Hall on October 14, 1960, appearing alongside Joan Baez and Pete Seeger performing the spiritual "Mary Don't You Weep". In 1960, he signed to Tradition Records. The recordings which followed included his song "Mojo Hand" in 1960.
In 1968, Hopkins recorded the album Free Form Patterns backed by the rhythm section of psychedelic rock band the 13th Floor Elevators. Through the 1960s and into the 1970s, Hopkins released one or sometimes two albums a year and toured, playing at major folk festivals and at folk clubs and on college campuses in the U.S. and internationally. He traveled widely in the United States, and overcame his fear of flying to join the 1964 American Folk Blues Festival, visit Germany and the Netherlands 13 years later, and play a six-city tour of Japan in 1978.
Hopkins died of esophageal cancer in Houston on January 30, 1982, at the age of 69. His New York Times obituary named him as "one of the great country blues and perhaps the greatest single influence on rock guitar players."

Monday Morning Blues 06/01/14 (1st hour) by Kev "Legs" on Mixcloud

Monday Morning Blues 06/01/14 (2nd hour) by Kev "Legs" on Mixcloud

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