Monday, November 8, 2010

Blind Lemon Jefferson

"Blind Lemon Jefferson", 10 by 8 in. acrylic on canvas.

The Freestone County Museum, Fairfield, Texas, will open "Art of the Blues, Texas Style", on November 20. It was curated by Andy Don Emmons.

Blind Lemon Jefferson was a blues player and a staple of the influential Dallas, Texas "Deep Ellum" blues scene in the 1920s. Pronounced as a dialectal variation of "Deep Elm", the eastern Dallas neighborhood was an incubator for blues and jazz musicians, some of whom, such as Blind Lemon, T-Bone Walker, and Bessie Smith, went on to national success.

The son of sharecroppers, Lemon Jefferson was born near Wortham, Texas in 1893. He began playing the guitar early in his teenage years and became a street musician, performing for the night crawlers of small East Texas towns. He moved to Dallas and settled in the Deep Ellum area in 1917. T-Bone Walker taught Lemon the basics of blues guitar. When he began recording in 1926 he was one of the first solo singer/guitar players in the blues. His work influenced musicians from B.B. King to Eric Clapton. "See That My Grave is Kept Clean", a song with a demanding message if ever there was one, has been covered by Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, the Grateful Dead and Counting Crows.
He is said to have died in Chicago in 1929. The reasons for his death vary, from a jealous lover to freezing in a snowstorm.
This piece is based, as are most images of Blind Lemon, on the most famous, possibly only, photograph of him available.

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