Blind Blake Is Something Of A Mystery, His Mastery Of The Guitar Is Not
It's very hard to write something for Blind Blake because very little is known about his life. Given his influence on Blues and Ragtime guitar, I think it is worth relating what I can about him.
About the only documentation we have on Arthur Blake is his death certificate which, was discovered by author Alex van der Tuuk and published in his work Blues & Rhythm.
According to the certificate he died in 1934, aged 38.
Blake was born in Newport News, Virginia and died in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His father was Winter Blake and his mother may have been named Alice. We can speculate that he spent some time on or around the Georgia Sea Island as one of Blake's song is sung in the local dialect.
Emerging as a recording artist in the 1920s, between 1926 and 1932 Blind Blake recorded 80 sides. It is believed he was living at that time in Jacksonville, Florida, and recorded in Chicago, possibly having an apartment there for a time. He probably returned to Florida during the winter and was said to have played on the streets in Jacksonville. Blake married in 1931 and stopped recording soon after – apparently no longer working as a musician.
His playing was Ragtime based and presaged and pioneered the style we now call Piedmont Blues. His tone was reminiscent of Ragtime piano and is easily recognized. His work was often bright and bouncy. Two excellent examples of his signature style are "Early Morning Blues" and "West Coast Blues." A particular favorite of mine is "Police Dog Blues" which was very nicely covered by Jorma Kaukonen.
Blind Blake stands as a giant of the guitar and someone every fan of guitar should investigate.