Lonnie Pitchford is one of a very few Bluesman who have mastered the diddley bow, a one-stringed instrument of African origin that was the starting point for the ‘bottleneck’ and slide-guitar techniques that are fundamental to the origins of Blues in the Delta. Despite his unique talents, he is not well known outside his region except for those with a specialist interest in Roots Blues.
Born just east of the Delta in Lexington MS in 1955, Lonnie came from a musical family and, at the age of five, made his first diddley bow from some guitar parts he found in the house. Soon he was playing at parties with his Dad and brother, who played piano and guitar. Lonnie obviously had a feel for the music too, playing 6 and 12-string guitar, bass and piano at local juke-joints and Blues Festivals in the 70s. Like other Delta Blues aficionados Super Chikan and Seasick Steve, Lonnie made his own instruments, both acoustic and electric, and when he wasn’t playing, he earned a living as a carpenter.
Lonnie plays the National Downhome Blues Festival;
A period of silence followed, although Lonnie probably played plenty of local gigs, and at some point he met Robert Jr. Lockwood, and learned first hand from this step-son of Robert Johnson, and he also played several times with another Johnson associate, Johnny Shines. In 1991 Lonnie took the stage at the Smithsonian Festival of American Folk-life in a tribute to ‘The King of the Delta Blues’, Robert Johnson, and again he featured on the subsequent album. The following year, Robert Franklin Palmer made his seminal documentary film ‘Deep Blue’, with a performance from Lonnie of ‘Terraplane Blues’ and ‘If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day’, showing that Robert’s influence was still alive in his home territory.