Born: June 28, 1915 in Shaw MS
Near the end of the first decade of the 21st century, blues artist David "Honeyboy" Edwards is the last of the original Mississippi Delta bluesmen standing. Only his older friend, Joe Willie "Pinetop" Perkins is still touring, but while Perkins plays piano in the Chicago blues style, Edwards is a true acoustic country bluesman, able to pick up his aging guitar and knock out songs in the spirit and tenor of Robert Johnson or Charley Patton, 'cause he was there and saw them both perform!
Learning From The Masters
David "Honeyboy" Edwards was born in 1915 in rural Shaw, Mississippi. As many Delta bluesmen did, Edwards picked up the guitar at a young age, teaching himself to play by listening to live blues from artists like Tommy McClennan and Robert Petway. By the age of fourteen, Edwards was performing in Delta juke-joints, area fish fries, and picnics.
Edwards' skills so impressed Big Joe Williams that the notoriously surly bluesman took Edwards on the road with him and mentored the young guitarist in the ways of the world. Traveling through the sound during the late-1920s and early-1930s, Edwards witnessed the Delta legends Charlie Patton and Tommy Johnson perform live, and he performed frequently alongside Robert Johnson, Big Walter Horton, Yank Rachell, and Tommy McClennan.
Alan Lomax & the Library of Congress
Edwards recorded fifteen sides for musicologist Alan Lomax and the Library of Congress in 1942 in Clarksdale, Mississippi, though the songs wouldn't surface on a commercial recording until released in 1992 on the Delta Bluesman album. Edwards didn't record commercially until 1951, when he cut "Who May Your Regular Be" for the American Recording Company (ARC) in Houston. Later that year he cut "Build A Cave" as "Mr. Honey" for the Artist label; both songs were released on 78rpm records although neither sold great numbers and, in fact, probably weren't distributed that widely.
Edwards moved to Chicago during the early-1950s, playing small clubs and on street corners for tips with fellow musicians like Big Walter, Floyd Jones, and Kansas City Red. He recorded four songs for Chess Records in 1953, but only one - "Drop Down Mama" - would be released at the time. Edwards would put aside his acoustic guitar for an electric while playing around Chicago, and he eked out a living performing locally with the infrequent trip South to play familiar Mississippi juke-joints.
Roamin' and Ramblin'
In 1972, Edwards would meet young harp player Michael Frank and they became good friends. Forming the Honeyboy Edwards Blues Band, they performed in Chicago's North Side blues clubs, and they would also play sometimes as a duo. When Frank formed his Earwig Records label in 1979, he signed Edwards and released Old Friends. An all-star collaboration between Edwards and friends like Sunnyland Slim, Big Walter Horton, Floyd Jones and others, it was the label's first album. Edwards has since recorded several albums for Earwig, including the acclaimed 2008 compilation album Roamin' and Ramblin'.
During the 1970s and '80s, Edwards toured Europe and Japan, and he has made high-profile appearances at events like the Chicago Blues Festival and the San Francisco Blues Festival through the years. Edwards' biography, The World Don't Owe Me Nothin', was published in 1997 by the Chicago Review Press, accompanied by a live album of the same name from Earwig. Inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1996, Edwards has also received two W.C. Handy/Blues Music Awards as "Acoustic Blues Artist of the Year." In 2009, at the age of 94 years, Edwards continues to tour, performing at dozens of blues festivals each year.
Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen
In 2004, Edwards joined the remaining Delta blues musicians - Pinetop Perkins, Henry Townsend, and Robert Lockwood, Jr. - in Dallas for a under the aegis of The Blue Shoe Project. Ranging in age from 89 to 94, the four bluesmen performed together, the concert documented by the Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live In Dallas album, which earned the participants a Grammy Award for "Best Traditional Blues Album" in 2008. Since that Dallas concert, both Lockwood and Townsend have passed away.
Recommended Albums: Edwards' Delta Bluesman provides an interesting juxtaposition of the old and new, featuring the bulk of his 1942 Lomax LOC recordings alongside thirteen new tracks. Earwig tried the same trick again with 2008's Roamin' and Ramblin', which pairs the Delta blues legend with young harp players like Bobby Rush, Billy Branch, and others for eleven new tracks, coupled with eight vintage tracks of guitar/harp duos, including Edwards' old friend Big Walter.
Honeyboy Edwards - Select Discography
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- Old Friends (Earwig Records, 1979)
- White Windows (Evidence Records, 1988)
- Delta Bluesman (Earwig Records, 1992)
- I've Been Around (Savoy Jazz, 1995)
- Crawling Kingsnake (Testament, 1997)
- World Don’t Owe Me Nothing (Earwig Records, 1997)
- Don't Mistreat A Fool (Genes, 1999)
- Shake 'Em On Down (APO Records, 2000)
- Mississippi Delta Bluesman (Smithsonian Folkways, 2001)
- Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live In Dallas* (Blue Shoe Project, 2007)
- Roamin' and Ramblin' (Earwig Records, 2008)
* Edwards with Pinetop Perkins, Henry Townsend, and Robert Lockwood, Jr.