Personalities | Mississippi Fred McDowell | Thirties | Jazz & Blues
(Guitar, vocals, 1904–72)
Self-taught as a guitarist, music was only a sideline for McDowell for the first 60 years of his life. He worked in the Memphis area before settling in Como, Mississippi to work as a farmer in 1929; he didn’t own a guitar until 1940. Discovered and recorded by Alan Lomax in 1959, McDowell’s first recordings were issued on Atlantic and Prestige/International.
A bottleneck specialist, McDowell was recorded in 1964 by Chris Strachwitz for Arhoolie Records. This provided a springboard to prominence for McDowell, who soon moved into regular appearances at festivals and on the folk-music circuit. From that point until 1971, he recorded regularly and appeared in three films, including the documentary Fred McDowell (1969). He was championed by younger performers such as the Rolling Stones, who covered McDowell’s tune ‘You Got To Move’ on their 1971 album Sticky Fingers.
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