I am excited about this one! Not that I am not excited for any other. However, Lightnin’ hold a special place in my heart. He’s from Texas, and anyone who knows me (Joe) knows Texas blues is near and dear to my heart. I may have grown up in Kansas but the Lone Star state has shaped me musically.
Lightnin’ bridges the gap between delta and electric blues. Born in 1912, he grew up during the genre’s infancy and was at the cusp of electrifying the guitar. He played an acoustic for the majority of his career, always punctuated with a sound hole pickup. His non conformist sense of meter and picking style bordered on the Avant-garde; making Lightnin’ a true original, one that would be emulated and impersonated for decades to come. Baby Please Don’t Go (Brendan will make a lesson for this in the future) comes to mind. Even though Joe Williams is credited with popularizing the song, I would call Lightnin’s the definitive version.
I am of the opinion that when it comes to the quintessential troubadour bluesman image, there is Robert Johnson and Lightnin’ Hopkins. He is one of the most recorded artists of the genre. Mainly due to his tendency to take money from anyone to record, he has released several versions of the same material on numerous labels (each recording is, of course, different).
Hopkins was active musically until his death in 1982 of esophageal cancer. The New York Times described him as “One of the great country blues singers and perhaps the greatest single influence on rock guitar players.” That is a statement I agree with 100%.
Joe’s recommended listening:
Smokes Like Lightnin’
The Great Electric Show and Dance
There are so many videos online of Lightnin’ here is one of my favorites
We will do a one off lesson on Lightnin’. It won’t encompass everything in the scope of his style but give you a taste of the truly unique nature of his playing.
Brendan recommends watching the documentary “The Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins” on youtube.