Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Blind Lemon Jefferson: Matchbox Blues

Blind Lemon Jefferson was born in Coutchman, Texas, in 1893. He was an enormously influential country blues singer whose songs have been covered by rock performers as diverse as the Beatles and Bob Dylan. Dylan recorded Jefferson’s “See That My Grave is Kept Clean” on his debut album, while Beatles and others, recorded rocking versions of his “Matchbox Blues.”

After traveling around Texas with the legendary folk and blues singer, Leadbelly, Jefferson wound up in Chicago in the mid-Twenties. He secured a recording contract with Paramount Records and began laying down classic sides. Jefferson’s recordings proved for posterity that he was, in fact, one of the best singers and guitarists of early country blues.

Jefferson was a fast picking guitarist of tremendous facility, and he played in a wide variety of styles. Jefferseon’s recordings seldom become tiresome as is the case with many other country blues singers. Jefferson’s recorded classics include, “Hot Dogs,” “Jack O’ Diamonds Blues,” “Black Snake Moan,” and “Easy Rider Blues.” He was one of the first male blues singers to record solo with his own guitar accompaniment.

Jefferson died of exposure when he became lost in Chicago in December, 1929 during a bad snowstorm. Several fine compilations of Jefferson’s recordings are available including, “King of the Country Blues” (1985), “Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order” (Volumes 1-4) (1991), “The Best of Blind Lemon Jefferson” (2000), and “Classic Sides” (2003).