Personalities | Lightnin’ Hopkins | Fifties | Jazz & Blues
(Guitar, vocals, 1911–82)
Sam Hopkins was born in Centerville, Texas. His father and two brothers were musicians and he learned guitar from an early age. He met and played with Blind Lemon Jefferson at the age of eight. He accompanied his cousin, Texas Alexander, for much of the 1930s, drifting through Texas. He was discovered in Houston by Lola Cullum in 1946 and signed with Aladdin Records. His first record featured pianist Thunder Smith and with that release he became Lightnin’ Hopkins. He recorded hundreds of songs from 1948–54, for a variety of different labels.
After a dry patch, Hopkins was ‘rediscovered’ during the folk blues revival of the late 1950s and from 1959 recorded dozens of albums for various labels. He toured constantly, became a regular on the festival circuit in North America and did considerable film and TV work. Lightnin’ Hopkins’ great gift was his ability to create songs from the flimsiest suggestion, and to play exquisite country blues guitar even though he lived in a big city for most of his life. He also had an extraordinarily fluid sense of song structure and time.
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