Friday, February 4, 2011

Lonnie Pitchford

Lonnie Pitchford (October 8, 1955 – November 8, 1998) was an American blues musician and instrument maker from Lexington, Mississippi. He was notable in that he was one of only a handful of young African American musicians from Mississippi who had learned and was continuing the Delta blues and country blues traditions of the older generations.
In addition to the acoustic and electric guitar, Pitchford was also skilled at the one-string guitar and diddley bow, a one-string instrument of African origin, as well as the double bass, piano and harmonica. He was a protégé of Robert Lockwood, Jr., from whom he learned the style of Robert Johnson. His own debut album, All Round Man was released on Rooster Blues Records in 1994.He was born and raised about five miles outside of Lexington, a rural Mississippi town not far from Clarksdale. Lonnie Pitchford was one of the most versatile musicians you will ever hear. He's played one room jook joints and Carnegie Hall. He was a carpenter by trade and he was good at his work. He's built his own guitars and his own house. A guiet man who never let on he was a world famous musician; Lonnie could be seen around Clarksdale wearing his carpentry belt and carrying on his trade.
Lonnie began making one string guitars as a child and taught himself to play them. He often construct one on stage and then proceed to amaze audiences with his abilitiy to get incredible sounds from it. He also builds a one string guitar known as the Diddley Bow. He could get more from his Diddley Bow than a lot of guitarist can get from their Strat. He began performing outside Mississippi as a teen-ager, appearing at the Smithsonian Institution's Festival of American Folklife from 1972 to 1991.
By the 1990s he had toured in Europe and Australia as well as the United States. When not on the road, he worked as a carpenter.
He appeared in the documentaries "The Land Where the Blues Began" (1980) and "Deep Blues" (1992), and was recorded for five blues anthologies before he made his first solo album, "All Around
Man," for Rooster Blues Records in 1994. He was working on an album for Mississippi Crossroads Music. He also made an album with the New Africa String Band, which included Powell and Big Jack Johnson.
In November 1998, Pitchford died at his home in Lexington, from AIDS. A diddley bow is featured on his headstone which was paid for by John Fogerty and Rooster Blues Records through the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund. His grave is located near the grave of Elmore James, in the New Port Baptist Church cemetery in Holmes County, Mississippi.

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