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February 19, 2011 7:51 PM   Subscribe

The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins A 1967 Les Blank film of Lightnin Hopkins visiting his hometown of Centerville, TX "…a gorgeous 31-minute poem of a movie, a series of snapshots from his life as well as a look at an era fast disappearing…Watching the film is something of a revelation, at least if you ever had a doubt where the blues came from."

Also featuring Billy Bizor, Mance Lipscome and Ruth'Blues'Ames.

Town memorializes bluesman with new statue - Marty Racine, Houston Chronicle 2002
Sam Hopkins was born in 1912 to a sharecropping family in Centerville, a few farms west of Crockett. His grandfather was a slave who hanged himself. His father, Abe, was a ruffian murdered after an argument over a card game.

His mother, Frances, encouraged him to play organ at her home church services, but he was drawn to the hard stuff plucked by older brothers Joel and John Henry.

At age 8 Sam built a guitar by cutting a hole in a cigar box, nailing on a plank and stringing it with wire. After hearing Blind Lemon Jefferson enthrall a picnic in Buffalo, he knew that music would save him from the cotton patch.

Post quotation about the film from the excellent Let There Be Lightnin: How Sam Hopkins Lived the Blues by Michael Hall.

Here's another article snippet:
FOR THE MOST PART, LIGHTNIN’ didn’t trust white people, in particular record business white people, all of whom, he claimed, had cheated him. Even Lomax had horrible experiences with the bluesman. On their eight-show 1960 trip to California, every show had gone well except for one, and Lightnin’ complained bitterly and took it out on Lomax, who later wrote in a letter, “I couldn’t help but recall Mark Twain’s description of one of his characters: ‘He had every attribute of a dog except gratitude.’”

More Lightnin Hopkins videos and a biography from the awesome Classic Blues Videos
posted by madamjujujive (16 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah! Thanks, mjj!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:14 PM on February 19, 2011

BB King, if I'm not mistaken, said of Lightnin Hopkins, "He don't know but two notes, but he says more with them two notes than anyone else can with the whole scale."

I seem to recall a Lightnin Hopkins song along the lines of, "I went back to my home town, with good intentions, but I just was not welcome there... something something ... there were only a few, who were like me, everyone else couldn't see, something something."
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:28 PM on February 19, 2011

wow - that is really it - i can't say anything else, but that's it, right there
posted by pyramid termite at 8:32 PM on February 19, 2011

posted by Sailormom at 8:33 PM on February 19, 2011

A tremendous piece of history. Amazing footage.
posted by gallois at 9:16 PM on February 19, 2011

Lightnin' was a friend of mine from 1965 on. I met him through Malcolm and Lanny. He was a good man, but as his next door neighbor told me once, "that's a bad man, boy. You take care."
posted by elmaddog at 9:26 PM on February 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

I bought my first Lightnin' CD when I was 15 or so, based solely on the cover. I'd never heard of the man, but the photo on the cover was Lightnin' sitting in a rocking chair, wearing sunglasses, cigarette dangling from his mouth, with a guitar. I thought to myself, "if this motherfucker can't play the blues, no one can." I was not disappointed.
posted by sanko at 9:41 PM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

electric lightnin'
posted by pyramid termite at 10:51 PM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Holy poot..what a post! Thanks!
posted by magstheaxe at 11:48 PM on February 19, 2011

Cool! I've been looking for this for ages!
posted by TheCoug at 12:33 AM on February 20, 2011

Yes yes yes.
posted by nola at 5:03 AM on February 20, 2011

we need more posts like this. thank you.
posted by narcotizingdysfunction at 6:47 AM on February 20, 2011

Hearing Lightin' introduced me to Texas country blues and I have been addicted ever since! Thanks for the link to the film, I haven't seen that in 20 some years!! I'm just sad I never saw him play....thanks for the post!
posted by pdxjmorris at 7:22 AM on February 20, 2011

Nothing I've seen by Les Blank has disappointed me. Even his movie about garlic. (During which he was in the back of the theater, roasting garlic. At first I thought I was just imagining the aroma...)
posted by kozad at 8:49 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

One of my favorites. He really knew how to make music didn't he?
Great post.
posted by caddis at 11:59 AM on February 20, 2011

Wow, Thanks, MJ3, I had no idea this existed! And another favorite Texan, Mance Lipscomb, is in here too! I have about 10 Lightnin' albums; just love the way he went about it. As further evident of his quarrelsome disposition, I remember reading a story in the liner notes of one of those albums about a recordist reuniting him with his brother John Henry after several years apart, and the first thing Lightnin' did was demand repayment of a small debt.

Interesting point about Hopkins as a party musician: he hammered bottlecaps into his boot heels and used these to stomp-click out a rhythm as he played for dances.

I was just last week telling a facebook pal from my hometown about how, at the height of my interest in Lightnin', I had a very vivid dream about meeting and interviewing him.
posted by planetkyoto at 4:40 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

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