Boyd Rivers: the Mississippi Gospel Blues singer

Boyd Rivers: the Mississippi Gospel Blues singer

Some artist use a big stage, a fire show, a wall of Marshall amps or a Group of dancers to add something to their performance. But not Boyd Rivers. Give him a Guitar in his living room, let him sing and let his wife Ruth Mae Rivers sing too. I guarantee, and Alan Lomax proved it, it maybe the best live performance you will ever see. Boyd Rivers the Gospel Blues singer who enjoys to hang around with his friends at JoJo’s Gas Station on Highway 51 was a simple man, with a golden voice.

Gospel Blues Boyd Rivers

He makes full-sounding blues combined with his soulful voice and sometimes complemented by the vocals of Ruth Mae Rivers. His technique is, play the blues with an open E-string on the guitar, use a capo and switch easy. It creates strong overtones pushes his voice towards the top of his range and makes the full blues sound. (From: Woke Me Up This Morning: Black Gospel Singers and the Gospel Life, p. 47).

First Blues Guitar

Boyd Rivers bought his first guitar when he was about eleven, twelve for seventeen Dollars in Pickens. Paying three Dollars a week. He like music in church more than playing in nightclubs. Some got hurt there, and sometimes they got killed. In church people were shouting and Rivers liked that more than people dancing. Unlike many other Blues musicians he was not a musician for the Juke Joints I think.

Combination Gospel and Blues


Rivers once said: “I don’t write songs. They have to come to me. It’s a feeling. I’ve got a thousand songs, different ones. You oughta hear me in church! You will never meet nobody else like me. I’m always somewhere to play.” (From: Woke Me Up This Morning: Black Gospel Singers and the Gospel Life, p. 47). He was a true musicians, I think he just want to make music, make fun and make great songs. He made an unusual combination of genres. Blues, the devils music and Gospel, church music. It is the Gospel voice and the bluesy guitar that makes Rivers sound so great.

Top of his career

Boyd Rivers performed his Gospel Blues in many Churches around Mississippi Photo by NatalieMaynor
Boyd Rivers performed his Gospel Blues in many Churches around Mississippi Photo by NatalieMaynor

Rivers didn’t just play songs at home or in church during the seventies there was a change. He appeared slowly at some Delta blues and Gospel festivals, and those appearances led to a record label recording for German label L+R. A Song that is included at this recording session is ‘You Got To Take Sick and Die’. In 1986 Boyd reached his top when he was invited to France and Italy to play on the Mississippi Blues Trail and Gospel festival.

Boyd Rivers was known as an enjoyable man who was a real conversationalist. A bluesman and a church man at the same time. He probably didn’t get the fame he deserved, but he like it that way. Rivers died on November 1993 at aged fifty-eight of a heart attack. Listen to his songs and enjoy the style of Boyd Rivers.

Boyd Rivers on Spotify

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