Blind Lemon Jefferson Had Unique Talent (And A Much Parodied Name)
Call him Lemon Henry Jefferson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Lemon Pledge or a dozen other parodies -- but definitely call him a Blues pioneer. When Jefferson passed away at age 36 he was called "Father of the Texas Blues."
Blind Lemon was born blind in Texas in about 1893. Playing guitar from a very early age, since he was unable to help his share cropper parents on the farm, he had time to dedicate to practice. Later, in his early teens, he started playing picnics and parties and on the streets.
At the beginning of the 1910s, Jefferson started spending time in Dallas where he met and became friends with Lead Belly and helped found the Deep Ellum Blues scene. It's believed he moved to the area in about 1917 and became a common sight playing on the streets.
While living in Deep Ellum, Blind Lemon met Aaron Thibeaux Walker, also known as T-Bone Walker. Teaching Walker to play guitar meant that Jefferson has had a major knock-on effect on decades of the Blues and Rock -- as Walker was a prime influence on B. B. King and King's influence is truly legendary.
Jefferson had far less of an impact on most early Blues musicians, as his style was oddly complex. It's said he developed his guitar style out of his ego and desire to play in a way no one could replicate. His timing and the layout of his compositions were unique. Although his sound was dominated by amazing guitar work, he was also known for his odd high pitched voice.
Blind Lemon also stood apart for the fact he was nearly unique when he started to record solo guitar and vocals in 1925. Most all Blues had been recorded in the venues the musicians played while Jefferson went to Chicago in 1925 to record in a professional studio. He went on to release more than 40 sides over the next 4 years, several of which became best sellers.
Those Blind Lemon Jefferson recordings have had a lasting impact on both Blues and Rock and Roll over the last 40 years. Quite an accomplishment for someone who passed away 86 years ago.