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*On this date, in 1912, we remember the birth of Lightnin Hopkins. He was a Black blues artist.
Sam Hopkins (his real name) was a Texas country bluesman whose sixty-year career began in the 1920s. Along the way, Hopkins watched the blues change and grow remarkably, but he never significantly altered his mournful Lone Star Texas sound, which converted to acoustic and electric guitar. Hopkins’s two brothers, John Henry and Joel, were also talented bluesmen, but Lightnin became a star.
In 1920, he befriended the legendary Blind Lemon Jefferson at a social function and even got a chance to play with him. Later, Hopkins served as Jefferson’s guide. In his teens, Hopkins began working with another great pre-war singer, his cousin, Texas Alexander. A 1930s stretch in Houston’s County Prison Farm for the young, Hopkins interrupted their partnership, but when he was freed, he hooked back up with his older blues mentor. In 1946, talent scout Lola Anne Cullum came across the pair when they were singing their lowdown brand of blues in inner-city Houston’s Third Ward.
She had already engineered a pact with Los Angeles-based Aladdin Records for another of her discoveries, pianist Amos Milburn, and the world came to see and hear one of the best. Hopkins’s nimble dexterity made intricate guitar boogie riffs seem easy. His captivating fondness for improvising lyrics to fit whatever situation might arise made him a beloved blues troubadour and representative of the music. Sam "Lightnin" Hopkins died on January 30, 1982.
Nothing But the Blues The Music and the Musicians
Edited by Lawrence Cohn
Copyright 1993 Abbeville Publishing Group, New York