Friday, July 1, 2011

Garfield Akers

Garfield Akers (b. 1901 or 1902, Brights or Bates, Mississippi, d. between 1953 and 1959, probably in Memphis, Tennessee) was a blues singer and guitarist. He sometimes performed under the pseudonym "Garfield Partee."The throbbing guitar sound of Garfield Akers was a primary influence on subsequent generations of Mississippi bluesmen, with the likes of John Lee Hooker and Robert Wilkins citing him as an influence!
Born around 1902 in Bates, Mississippi, Akers remains a shadowy figure; after honing his skills at local dances and house parties, he relocated to the Hernando area, where he worked by day as a sharecropper. After moving on to Memphis, in 1929 he made his first Vocalion label recordings at the Peabody, accompanied by guitarist Joe Callicott; between this first date and a 1930 session for Brunswick, four Akers performances still exist - his two-part signature "Cottonfield Blues," "Jumpin' and Shoutin' Blues," and "Dough Roller Blues," one of the first variations on Hambone Willie Newbern's seminal "Roll and Tumble."
His most well-known song is his debut, the Cottonfield Blues, which Don Kent praised with the words "only a handful of guitar duets in all blues match the incredible drive, intricate rhythms and ferocious intensity" and called Akers "one of the greatest vocalists in blues history". Michael Gray appreciated it as "the birth of rock ’n’ roll … from 1929!"
Akers' extant recordings consist of four sides, which are nonetheless historically significant. His most well-known song was his debut, "Cottonfield Blues", a duet with friend and longtime collaborator Joe Callicott on second guitar, based on a song performed by Texas Bluesman Henry Thomas a few years prior.
Akers lived in Hernando, Mississippi most of his life, working as a sharecropper and performing during off-hours at local house parties and dances. He toured with Frank Stokes on the Doc Watts Medicine Show. Akers was reportedly active on the south Memphis circuit throughout the 1930s. Akers and Callicott played together for more than twenty years, parting in the mid-1940's. Akers briefly resurfaced in the early 1950s, shortly before his death at a historically undetermined date. No photographs of Akers are known to exist.Nothing is known about Akers after the pair split as a performing duo although it is believed that he died around the end of the 1950's or the beginning of the 1960's, possibly in Memphis.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Thanks for the heads up on this guy. Never heard of him before, but I love his music now. It's amazing how many musical miles the Rollin' and Tumblin' riff has been driven.
Just found your site a few weeks ago, and check in often.
Also loved Rev.Utah Smith's music!