Blind Lemon Jefferson

(1893 – 1929)

One of the first Blues musicians to sell records in significant numbers, Lemon Henry Jefferson was born blind on a farm in east Texas to sharecropper parents. He took up guitar in his early teens — perhaps inspired by the many traveling guitarists who made their way through the farms and plantations of the South performing Blues and dance tunes for the workers — and was soon performing at picnics and parties. By 1912 he was a regular performer around Dallas, where he sometimes performed with Huddie Ledbetter, a.k.a. Leadbelly.

In 1925 Jefferson was discovered by a scout for the Paramount label and taken to Chicago to make records. These recordings are some of the very first by a solo Blues singer-guitarist, and many consider them the first Blues recordings to reach a national audience. In the next few years Jefferson recorded about 100 songs displaying unusual versatility, both in his song writing and guitar playing. Jefferson wrote simple dance songs, humorous songs and poignant songs. He made use of different guitar tunings, different rhythms and was know for his complex single note guitar runs. His influence spanned generations, and can be heard in the playing of B.B. King, T-Bone Walker, Lightnin' Hopkins, Son House and Robert Johnson. Many of his songs became Blues standards, and his “Match Box Blues” was adapted into a Rockabilly song by Carl Perkins, and covered by the Beatles.

Jefferson died in Chicago under mysterious circumstances in 1929 and was buried in Wortham, Texas; a marker was later placed on his grave inscribed with lyrics from one of his more popular songs: "Lord, it's one kind favor that I ask of you. See that my grave is kept clean.”