Mississippi John Hurt is a very interesting story. Born in 1893 (maybe 1892) , he self-taught on the guitar and began recording in 1928. What he recorded ended up as a commercial failure and he faded from history, becoming a farmer. The story could have easily ended here, except for one man, Tom Hoskins, who discovered a copy of Avalon Blues and made it his business to find him and talk him into playing again. He was successful and thus began a new career for John Hurt. He began recording and playing again in 1964 and performed until his death in 1966. He was instrumental in the rediscovery of many lost artists and their works. This is the song that prompted the search for him.
Avalon Blues – Mississippi John Hurt
He only recorded 13 songs back in 1928, but his influence is far beyond these songs. Another of his songs out of these sessions is attached below. You can note that the style of playing he preferred was a fast, no pick method that he picked up while teaching himself to play.
Frankie – Mississippi John Hurt
His songs have been redone by a wide slate of modern players including Bob Dylan, Maria Muldaur, Jerry Garcia, Beck, Doc Watson, Taj Mahal and Bruce Cockburn. Hit the links to see their versions.
As a finale, a live tv interview circa 1965 which includes a great version of Spike Driver Blues. No, make that phenomenal, what a guitar player.
12 thoughts on “Let’s Explore The Blues – Mississippi John Hurt”
An excellent post, John. Can’t wait to see your takes on Robert Johnson, Bo Didley and eventually, Buddy Guy.
Thanks. The interview was my fave. The people in the room just not seem to know what they were listening to. His playing blew me away. Be a while for those guys, I’m still in 1928 haha.
Did I miss Robert Johnson,or is he on his way? (took a stroll through the blues category, didn’t see him). I’m terrible with dates…
He is upcoming. That one should be a hoot for cover versions.
Made sure to tweet this to my followers. Excellent post as always. I’m loving this blues exploration. “Avalon Blues” is one of my favorites and it influenced so many great musicians!
Thanks Matthew. I was just about to do a quick update, so will do it here instead. There is a line in the song “Avalon, my home town, always on my mind/Avalon, my home town”, which is how Hoskins found him. He went to Avalon, Texas and poked around until he located him. A truly amazing story.
Wow. That is absolutely crazy. I’m glad John wasn’t keen on leaving his home town, haha.
The interview with Spike Driver Blues is also no longer available.
Copyright thing. Don’t think I’ll be able to replace it. To bad, it was a very interesting vid. The people doing the interview had no idea that they had a giant sitting there. I took a break on this series a while back. Time to start it up again I think. You be a blues lover I’m thinking.
That would be right