Bob Dylan once wrote that “Nobody can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell”, while more recently The White Stripes paid due homage to the man who had a sweetly laconic singing voice and a richly expressive guitar style. Blind Willie McTell died today in 1959.
Death of Blues singer William Samuel McTell aka Blind Willie McTell, at the age of 61. This legendary sightless purveyor of country blues accompanied his own distinctive vocals with dexterous 12-string guitar playing.
Making his first recordings in Atlanta for the Victor label in 1927, McTell also had a contract with Columbia under the pseudonym of Blind Sammie (appearing elsewhere as Georgia Sam) and travelled independently across the USA by train and bus to reach his audience.
Playing on records by his contemporaries Curley Weaver and Buddy Moss, McTell also dueted with his wife Kate after the pair were married and settled in Atlanta.
Recordings made in 1940 by blues archivist Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress’ Archive of American Folk Songs emphasise the range of his work, incorporating blues, spirituals and ragtime tunes. His best-known work “Statesboro’ Blues” however doesn’t feature.
At the time of his death, McTell had quit music in favour of preaching in a Baptist church, having been in failing health for over a decade due to his drinking, obesity and diabetes. A Memorial Concert was first arranged in Willie’s hometown of Thomson, Georgia in 1993 and has become an annual event.
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And here’s an example of Willie’s reportoire: