Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Blind Lemon Jefferson - Father of Texas Blues
He sticks to no musical conventions, varying his riffs and rhythm and singing complex and expressive lyrics in a manner exceptional at the time for a "simple country blues singer."Jefferson was reputedly unhappy with his royalties (although Williams said that Jefferson had a bank account containing as much as $1500). In 1927, when Williams moved to OKeh Records, he took Jefferson with him, and OKeh quickly recorded and released Jefferson's "Matchbox Blues" backed with "Black Snake Moan," which was to be his only OKeh recording, probably because of contractual obligations with Paramount. Jefferson's two songs released on Okeh have considerably better sound quality than on his Paramount records at the time. When he had returned to Paramount a few months later, "Matchbox Blues" had already become such a hit that Paramount re-recorded and released two new versions, under producer Arthur Laibly.In 1927, Jefferson recorded another of his now classic songs, the haunting "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" (once again using the pseudonym Deacon L. J. Bates) along with two other uncharacteristically spiritual songs, "He Arose from the Dead" and "Where Shall I Be." Of the three, "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" became such a big hit that it was re-recorded and re-released in 1928. Jefferson died in Chicago in December 1929. The cause of death is unknown, and though rumors swirled that a jealous lover poisoned his coffee, a more likely scenario is that he died due to a heart attack after being disoriented during a snowstorm (another scenario is that he froze to death). The book "Tolbert's Texas" claims that he was killed while being robbed of a large royalty cash payment by a guide taking him to Union Station to catch a train home to Texas. Paramount Records paid for the return of his body to Texas by train, accompanied by pianist Will Ezell. Jefferson was buried at Wortham Negro Cemetery (now Wortham Black Cemetery). Far from his grave being kept clean, it was unmarked until 1967, when a Texas Historical Marker was erected in the general area of his plot, the precise location being unknown. By 1996, the cemetery and marker were in poor condition, but a new granite headstone was erected in 1997. In 2007 the cemetery's name was changed to Blind Lemon Memorial Cemetery . Blind Lemon Jefferson is the featured musician on a State of Texas license plate. B. B. King has always maintained that Jefferson was a huge influence on his singing and guitar playing. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed one song by Blind Lemon Jefferson of the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll.