"Anywhere was home. Where I do good, I stay. When it gets bad and dull, I'm gone."
August 29, 2011 2:46 PM   Subscribe

“Honeyboy” Edwards, the last of the original American delta bluesmen, died last night.

David "Honeyboy" Edwards lived a life soaked in the blues. At age fourteen he was travelling with Big Joe Williams, performed with many of the leading bluesmen in the Mississippi Delta (such as Tommy McClennan, Charley Patton, Tommy Johnson, Johnny Shines, Big Walter Horton, Son House, Little Walter, and Yank Rachell). He was discovered by renowned folklorist Alan Lomax in 1942 a week before Lomax stumbled upon the then unknown McKinley Morganfield. He ran with Robert Johnson a few years after his mythical deal with the Devil, where Johnson allegedly sold his soul in exchange for talent and fame, and was even at Johnson's deathbed, after he was poisoned by a jealous juke joint owner.

"He was one of the very few remaining living links to the heyday of delta blues in the 1930s, and has been revered as a national treasure for years", writes AmercianBluesScene.com, and he was one of few remaining original practitioners of the acoustic Delta blues style:

Gamblin' Man

Honeyboy Edwards at WBEZ Chicago Public Radio

Sweet Home Chicago

Just Like Jesse James

You're The One

"Despite his advanced age," writes the Chicago Reader's David Whiteis, "Edwards can still attain an almost frightening intensity, delivering lyrics in a dark, throaty shout and ripping single-note phrases from his fretboard as if he were tearing them out of the Delta soil itself."

While not as celebrated as his contemporaries, Edwards stayed on the road, performing for blues fans and sharing his stories of the old days. He wrote a biography (World Don't Owe Me Nothing), was featured in a documentary, and only announced his retirement--at age ninety-six!--last month.
posted by magstheaxe (27 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Beautiful. Thanks for sharing this.

posted by Stagger Lee at 2:49 PM on August 29, 2011

posted by Thorzdad at 2:52 PM on August 29, 2011

From the "stories of the old days" link:
When I was young I use to go to the crossroads myself and play in the country. In those days at the crossroads in the country the stars and the moon were so bright. There wasn't no city lights or anything like that. It was so bright you could look across the field and see a person walking about two blocks away. The stars and the moon were so bright it looked like it was six 'o clock in the morning, when it was twelve 'o clock at night. When I lived across the field, I'd go down this road 'till it hit another road going over to somebody else's house I'd just sit out there in the middle of the crossroads. I'd be out there with my half-pint of whiskey in my pocket and I'd sit out there at twelve 'o clock at night in the summertime and just play my guitar and have a drink. Then I'd go over to my friend's house and we'd hook up and play a little bit together. I had a guitar player that I knowed and we'd just practice with one another. That's how I learned. He may learn a chord that I don't know and I'd say, 'how'd you do that?' That's how we learned how to play like that.
posted by theodolite at 2:58 PM on August 29, 2011 [8 favorites]

Ever see something on MetaFilter that you like so much your first thought is "I ought to post this to MetaFilter"?
posted by Bookhouse at 3:01 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by lord_wolf at 3:02 PM on August 29, 2011

Wow...the end of an era for sure. RIP, Honeyboy.
posted by rocket88 at 3:18 PM on August 29, 2011

posted by Think_Long at 3:48 PM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

posted by middleclasstool at 4:14 PM on August 29, 2011

The title of the linked article says "(1915-2011)" but the text says that he was born in 1911, so maybe he was 100 years old?
posted by spasm at 4:34 PM on August 29, 2011

I was just telling my son about him last week, after he self-applied the nickname "Honeyboy" for a more sticky reason. Edwards featured highly in the great documentary "The Search for Robert Johnson" that I have on VHS in a box here somewhere.
posted by planetkyoto at 4:42 PM on August 29, 2011

posted by BigHeartedGuy at 4:59 PM on August 29, 2011

A whole part of music history vanishes, slinger by slinger. RIP, Honeyboy.

posted by dbiedny at 5:02 PM on August 29, 2011

The man had a good long ride!

But with his death, it really does feel like a whole era, a big long "first chapter" in American music history is ended.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:06 PM on August 29, 2011

posted by Knappster at 5:07 PM on August 29, 2011

Well, everyone of the first generation mentioned here is now dead and gone. Although, technically, he was not the last pre-war bluesman to pass--that would have been Henry Townsend) he was the last of that generation. I was lucky enough to see him twice the last time he came to these parts, and one time was one of his better nights. He was well past his prime, but still, it was good to see him. I would recommend the Library of Congress recording Negro Blues and Hollers to hear him at the beginning. And for the rest of that record, which also features three of the songs we have by William Brown, who was a wonder in his own right.

That link is to the Rounder version, which may be out of print. I know it can be found at the Library of Congress, however.

I was lucky enough to see Son House, Booker White, Fred MacDowell and Honeyboy Edwards, Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters live. In the case of all save Edwards, I only wish I was old enough to appreciate that then as much as I do now.
posted by y2karl at 5:08 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Recently saw him playing with Big Head Todd. Amazing experience. And a memory I will cherish.
posted by double bubble at 5:46 PM on August 29, 2011

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:50 PM on August 29, 2011

Ah, so sorry to hear this, but thanks, magstheaxe for doing Honeyboy up proud here on the blue. Sad year for the last of the old time blues greats - he and Pinetoop in quick succession.

I was lucky enough to see him perform live twice in the last decade or so. I spoke to him briefly after one show and he took my hand in his - I can still feel the touch of those strong, gentle hands. He was a gentleman as well as a fine musician and a living piece of history. Thanks for the music, Mr Edwards.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:18 PM on August 29, 2011

posted by safetyfork at 7:30 PM on August 29, 2011

posted by fido~depravo at 7:48 PM on August 29, 2011

I took my son, then 13, to see him in Budapest a few years ago. We went to thank him after the show, and he wound up telling my son stories about his own younger years for forty minutes. Honeyboy's own father was a musician - a fiddler - which was an even older black music tradition in the south which has long since gone out of practice.
posted by zaelic at 7:55 PM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

This recording of Sweet Home Chicago and Dust My Broom from 2001 is really wonderful. Check Honeyboy's driving rhythm.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:17 PM on August 29, 2011

posted by quazichimp at 11:22 PM on August 29, 2011

posted by Not The Stig at 4:07 AM on August 30, 2011

posted by Mister Bijou at 8:47 AM on August 30, 2011

What an awesome musician. Thanks for this excellent obit.

posted by Sk4n at 9:05 AM on August 30, 2011

posted by oneironaut at 9:19 AM on August 30, 2011

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