Son House Father of the Blues

Son House Father of the Blues

Since 1928 there is one artist that had two careers, four lives and more blues than anybody could dream of. A man that had to learn his own songs twice and was there when Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil on the crossroads. They had to search him down in N.Y. in the sixties because everybody thought he was death. Son House, the father of the Blues is still a big influence today.

Church to Blues

Son_House_Grave Photo by: Jane Fader
Son_House_Grave Photo by: Jane Fader

During the twenties Eddy ‘Son’ House grew up in a religious family, he was a churchman and had no interest in the blues. He did sing in a choir but that changed around 1927 when he saw them boys play the blues. He came via a detour through New Orleans and St. Louis to Mississippi, the place he was born.

Starting with Blues guitar

When House picked up the Guitar around 1928, he met a fella named Willie Wilson that showed him the Bottleneck. it should have taken House a certain time and a whole lot of finger cuts  to understand the style of the bottleneck guitar.  It was the way Son House wanted  it,  from churchman to Mississippi bluesman during the wild thirties.

Robert Johnson and Son House

He met Willie Brown and Charlie Patton who introduced him to the Blues scene of the south and mid-west. Later on he met another figure that made the blues: Robert Johnson. They called him Little Robert, he couldn’t play guitar, and sneaked out of his parents house to play with House and Patton.

A While later House met Johnson again, this time with a guitar on his neck. He could play like a motherfucker. In Sing Out july 1965 p38,  House tells he warned Johnson for the girls that would love his guitar style. They get full of corn Whiskey and ask him: “daddy play that songs”. Johnson laughed and said: “oke”.

Mississippi Clubs
The Mississippi club circuit was no place for teddy bears. House recalls in Sing Out. Lots of time people got killed. One Time they met a fella ‘Horse’ He was sitting against the wall when at one point another guy named Zeb came in. House and Willie Brown were on the stage. Zeb turned to Horse and shot him down. It was the rough Mississipi club circuit of the thirties. House quitted the business, and later on stopped playing guitar.

Quitting the Blues

His next move was to the Eastcoast, Rochester New York it was about 1943. House would never play guitar again and worked in a factory. He missed the revival of the blues in the sixties until he was found by Nick Perls and Dick Waterman. Alan Wilson guitarist of Canned Heat also thought the Son House was death. When they found him, Dick Watermann recalls in “Child is Father to the Man” by Rebecca Davis, “He was a major league alcoholic”.

Revival with Al Wilson of Canned Heat

Al Wilson 19 years old showed Son House how to play the guitar again. Dick Watermann describes it a lot better: “Al Wilson taught Son House how to play Son house. “Wilson started every session with a sentence like: this is how you played ‘Black Mama’ in 1930”.

The Blues according to Son House

The father of the blues knows what the blues is. Not a dead and gone music genre or songs based on slavery history. In Sing Out he explains. “The way I figured it out after that, after I started, I got the idea that the blues come from a person having a dissatisfied mind and he wants to do something about it. There’s some kind of sorrowness in his heart about being misused by somebody. That’s what I figured the blues is based on”.

Still today Son House is a great influence on musicians. The White Stipes covered his song Death Letter Blues. He is without a doubt the most experienced blues artist there was alive. An original delta man and fantastic storyteller.

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