David “Honeyboy” Edwards passed away about a week ago at the ripe old age of 96. One of the last of the original Delta Bluesmen, he was the final link to legendary blues artist Robert Johnson.
Born June 28, 1915, in Shaw, Mississippi, Edwards ran way from home at the age of 14, beginning an itinerant career as a guitarist/blues singer that would last for two decades. During that time he traveled and played with the likes of Charley Patton, Johnny Shines, Tommy Johnson, Pinetop Perkins, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Robert Johnson. He was with Johnson the night the 27-year-old bluesman was fatally poisoned, and it remains his eyewitness testimony that’s proven significant in piecing these events together.
Edwards’ first recording session was for Alan Lomax and the Library of Congress in 1942. These 15 songs would be his only recordings until the early 1950s.
By that time he had settled in Chicago. While he initially supported himself as a laborer, he gradually resumed his music career on a full-time basis. His recorded sporadically over the next three decades but beginning in 1990 he released new material with consistency that resulted in a string of albums.
Recognition came late for Edwards. He was inducted into the Blues Hall Of Fame in 1998, won a 2008 Grammy for the album, Last of The Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live In Dallas, and finally, in 2010 received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy.
He continued to perform until just a few months before his death. Some of his best known compositions include “Long Tall Woman Blues,” “Just Like Jesse James,” “Gamblin’ Man,” “Wind Howlin’ Blues,” and “Army Blues”. For a nice introduction to his sound and material, track down 2010’s Delta Bluesman, which contains his early Library of Congress sides, plus some studio and live tracks spanning 1979-1991.
Edwards once stated: “The blues is nothing but a story…the verses which are sung in the blues is a true story, what people are doing, what they all went through. It’s not just a song, see?” Amen!
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