On Sunday, 1/31/10, David “Honeyboy” Edwards was finally given his dues. He may not have thought the world owed him a thing, but his Lifetime Achievement Grammy was a long time coming. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I had never heard his name, despite being a blues fan. Luckily, a chance post by someone else in the blogging world spurred me on to find out a little more about this wandering bluesman.
David “Honeyboy” Edwards was born June 28th, 1915 in Shaw, Mississippi. Like so many others in his time and space, he was born into a poor sharecropping family, so when he was young he taught himself to play the guitar. He weaned himself on the local delta bluesmen that played the local juke joints, like Big Joe Williams and Tommy Johnson. He did the things that Bob Dylan could only write about: jumping trains to get to the next town, playing for pennies with the likes of Robert Johnson, Tommy McClennan and Big Joe Williams, living out the delta blues he helped to define.His first recordings were made by Alan Lomax, while he was documenting American roots music for the Library of Congress, in 1942.
In the late 40s he made the journey up to Chicago, playing on the street and in small clubs with Johnny Temple, Floyd Jones and Kansas City Red. He laid down several songs for Chess Records and played with several artists from that label, such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. He brought Little Walter to Chicago, who eventually hooked up with Muddy Waters and went on to achieve fame as a harp player. Honeyboy traveled down to Houston to record with ARC and landed his first minor hit, “Drop Down Mama”. Throughout the 60s he continued to record and tour with other blues artists, and over the last few decades has traveled the world playing everything from festivals to the small clubs he first came up in.
This is the man the rest of us can only imagine. He lived the songs we can only fake our way through. From the fields to the tracks to the dim-lit clubs and the record stacks, Honeyboy Edwards defined what the rest of us know today as America.
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