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On this date, Brownie McGhee was born in 1915. He was a Black blues singer, guitarist, pianist, and songwriter.
The son of a singer and guitarist, Walter Brown McGhee, was born in Knoxville, TN. He developed an interest in the guitar at six and was taught by his sister to play the piano at age eight. He enjoyed itinerant blues musicians and dropped out of high school in the late 1920s to perform for carnivals, minstrel shows, dances, and informal gatherings throughout Tennessee. In the mid-1930s, he led his washboard band.
McGhee first met Sonny Terry in North Carolina in 1939 and worked with him and singer Paul Robeson in Washington, D. C., in 1940. Settling in New York City in the early 1940s, he roomed with Terry and the blues musician Leadbelly. The three played with Woody Guthrie and others as the Headline Singers. McGhee's first recordings were for the OKeh label in 1940; he later recorded extensively with Terry and others, exhibiting a bona fide rural style.
Terry and McGhee's partnership began in 1941 and lasted (with frequent interruptions) until the late 1970s. From 1942 to 1950, McGhee ran his Harlem music school, Home of the Blues. He appeared in Tennessee Williams' play "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" on Broadway (1955-57) and toured with that show.
McGhee recorded several motion-picture soundtracks. Brownie McGhee died in 1996 in Oakland, California.
Nothing But the Blues: The Music and the Musicians
Edited by Lawrence Cohn
Copyright 1993 Abbeville Publishing Group, New York