Our friends at the Music Maker Relief Foundation have let us know of the death of Piedmont bluesman George Higgs, who passed away on Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 at the age of 82.
Higgs was born in 1930 in a small farming community near Speed, North Carolina and was taught the harmonica as a child by his father. It was after seeing Piedmont bluesman Peg Leg Sam perform locally that the teenaged Higgs sold his favorite squirrel dog to a neighbor and bought a guitar but, thanks to the closeness of the neighbor's house, the dog spent much of its time with George. Drawing further inspiration from artists like Uncle Dave Macon and harmonica wizard DeFord Bailey that he heard performing on the radio from the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Higgs began playing fish fries and house parties in the area.
During the 1960s, Higgs sang and played guitar with the Friendly Five Gospel Quartet as well as performing in his own folk-blues style. The bluesman received the North Carolina Folklore Society's Brown-Hudson Award in 1992, and the following year he was presented with the North Carolina Heritage Award in honor of his contributions to the musical culture of the state. Higgs also performed with the North Carolina Black Folk Heritage Tour. Throughout the years, Higgs farmed and worked as a carpenter in the same Edgecombe County farming community in which he was born and raised.
Higgs became involved with the Music Maker Relief Foundation, who released his debut album, 2001's Tarboro Blues, which earned the artist a "Best Blues Album of the Year" award from Living Blues magazine. Music Maker also released Higgs' 2006 album Rainy Day; in between, Higgs recorded the Tar River Flood album for Tomato Records. Thanks to Music Maker, Higgs also got the opportunity to bring his unique style of Piedmont blues to audiences in the U.S. and Europe, influencing a generation of musicians like Grammy™ winner David Holt and keeping the legacy of the blues alive. Our thoughts go out to Higgs' family, friends, and many fans.
George Higgs photo courtesy Music Maker Relief Foundation