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Sun, 09.24.1893

Blind Lemon Jefferson, an originator of the blues

Blind LemonJefferson

This date celebrates the birth of Blind Lemon Jefferson in 1897. He was a Black country blues singer, guitarist, and songwriter.

Originally from Couchman, Texas, blind from birth and the youngest of seven children, Jefferson became an traveling entertainer in his teens, learning a repertoire of prison songs, blues, moans, spirituals, and dance selections.  He worked on the streets, in brothels, saloons, and parties in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Virginia.  In the 1920s Jefferson went to Chicago.

His high voice, shouting style, and guitar technique used melodic lead lines, bent notes, and other effects.  His lyrics and themes became staples of the blues used by others. From 1926 through 1929, Jefferson and Leadbelly recorded for the Paramount label. Jefferson also recorded spiritual songs, using the pseudonym Deacon LJ Bates.

He was one of the earliest Black folk-blues singers to achieve popular success.  Blind Lemon Jefferson reportedly suffered a heart attack on the street and died of exposure in December, 1929 in Chicago.  A grave marker was placed over his plot in the Wortham, Texas, Negro Cemetery by fans and blues followers in 1967.

Nothing But the Blues: The Music and the Musicians
Edited by Lawrence Cohn
Copyright 1993 Abbeville Publishing Group, New York
ISBN 1-55859-271-7

Texas State Historical Association
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