Sunday, March 26, 2006

Bukka's second chance


Born Booker T. Washington White in Houston, Mississippi on November 12, 1906. Bukka White was one of the few Delta blues artists to enjoy 2 periods of popularity.

He got his start in music at the age of nine, learning fiddle tunes on the guitar from his father, but White's grandmother objected to anyone playing "that Devil music" in the household; nonetheless, his father eventually bought him a guitar.

The son of a railroad worker, White was exposed to the sound of trains from an early age and was not afraid to hobo a train. He rode the rails from the Mississippi Delta to St. Louis, where he played poolrooms, barrelhouses, and parties for food and tips during the 1910s and 1920s. He continued to travel during the 1930s, working as a professional boxer in Chicago and as a Negro League pitcher with the Birmingham Black Cats. During the summer of 1937, White shot an assailant in the thigh and was sentenced to Parchman Farm, a Mississippi penitentiary farm.

After his release from prison he tried to re-start his music career, but that was interrupted by a stint in the U.S. Navy during WWII. After the Navy, White played gigs occasionally, but found work as a fitter in a welding shop provided a more steady income.

He was re-discovered by John Fahey in 1963 and began playing full-time again. Although this time he was playing to a mostly white, middle class audience. His music took on a slightly different feeling. Gone were the deep, aching blues of his prison era. What did remain unchanged was his fantastic slide and slap-knock rhythm on his old National steel guitar.

Bukka White died in Memphis, Tennessee, February 26, 1977.

Here are a couple of songs from his second career.

Bukka White - Bukka's Jitterbug Swing.mp3

Bukka White - Special Streamline.mp3

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