Rufus Thomas was a Soul giant in the 60s and a comedy disco act in the 70s, but before that he had been a big player on the Memphis R&B scene. He went on the road almost straight out of school, working as a comedian in travelling shows, including the Rabbit’s Foot Minstrels. When he…

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This Carolina harp virtuoso spent most of his life travelling the South with carnivals and medicine shows. As a teenager, Arthur Jackson lived the life of a hobo, ‘riding the blinds’ on the railroads between South-Eastern towns where he would play his harp for tips. On his one journey North to Buffalo NY, he almost…

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A voice as sweet as honey and a clean, clipped harp sound made Junior Parker a Blues star in the 50s with many hit records. From busking on streetcorners, he was recruited by a Blues legend, was signed by major labels and fronted a renowned touring show. He managed to keep one foot in the…

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Years before he met Tina, Ike Turner was a big noise on the Memphis R&B scene. As a bandleader, session musician and talent scout, he was involved in recording BB King, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, Johnny Ace and Junior Parker for Sam Phillips‘ Memphis Recording Service, which later became Sun Records, and for the Bihari…

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Banjo supremo Gus lived near Clarksdale, a hot-bed of country Blues, and he is said to have made his own banjo from an old frying pan and a raccoon skin. He often held his banjo across his knees, using a knife on the strings like those early Bluesmen as he played on the streets of…

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If you went to see The Beale Streeters in Memphis in the late 40s, you might find BB King, Junior Parker, Johnny Ace, Rosco Gordon and Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland on stage. The gigs and broadcasts made by this loose collection of players launched many careers, some very long and one tragically short, and gave the…

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Charlie Burse was a wild-living, hard-drinking, bad-tempered man whose redeeming feature was an extraordinary skill on guitar, banjo, mandolin and ukelele, the latter giving rise to his stage-name, the ‘Uke Kid’. It was his good fortune to meet up with the level-headed, business-minded multi-instrumentalist Will Shade, who managed and played with his Memphis Jug Band.…

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Of all the old Blues singers who were rediscovered in the 60s, Furry Lewis was by far the most engaging character. With his peg-leg, his inexhaustable stock of stories, his considerable skill with a guitar and his witty songs, he became a Blues Celebrity on TV, in movies and even in Playboy Magazine. Walter Lewis…

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Virtuoso slide guitar playing on his National Steel, his deep, distinctively agile voice, and his talent for improvising songs out of thin air, for hours on end, made Bukka White a prized discovery of the Folk/Blues revival of the sixties. Booker T Washington White was born in the hill country of Mississippi in 1906, the…

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