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Lightnin' Hopkins

Sam Hopkins was a Texas country bluesman of the highest caliber whose career began in the 1920s and stretched all the way into the 1980s. Along the way, Hopkins watched the genre change remarkably, but he never appreciably altered his mournful Lone Star sound, which translated onto both acoustic and electric guitar. Hopkins' nimble dexterity made intricate boogie riffs seem easy, and his fascinating penchant for improvising lyrics to fit whatever situation might arise made him a beloved blues troubadour.

Hopkins' brothers John Henry and Joel were also talented bluesmen, but it was Sam who became a star. In 1920, he met the legendary Blind Lemon Jefferson at a social function, and even got a chance to play with him. Later, Hopkins served as Jefferson's guide. In his teens, Hopkins began working with another pre-war great, singer Texas Alexander, who was his cousin. A mid-'30s stretch in Houston's County Prison Farm for the young guitarist interrupted their partnership for a time, but when he was freed, Hopkins hooked back up with the older bluesman.

The pair was dishing out their lowdown brand of blues in Houston's Third Ward in 1946 when talent scout Lola Anne Cullum came across them. She had already engineered a pact with Los Angeles-based Aladdin Records for another of her charges, pianist Amos Milburn, and Cullum saw the same sort of opportunity within Hopkins' dusty country blues. Alexander wasn't part of the deal; instead, Cullum paired Hopkins with pianist Wilson "Thunder" Smith, sensibly re-christened the guitarist "Lightnin'," and presto! Hopkins was very soon an Aladdin recording artist.

"Katie May," cut on November 9, 1946, in L.A. with Smith lending a hand on the 88s, was Lightnin' Hopkins' first regional seller of note. He recorded prolifically for Aladdin in both L.A. and Houston into 1948, scoring a national R&B hit for the firm with his "Shotgun Blues." "Short Haired Woman," "Abilene," and "Big Mama Jump," among many Aladdin gems, were evocative Texas blues rooted in an earlier era.

A load of other labels recorded the wily Hopkins after that, both in a solo context and with a small rhythm section: Modern/RPM (his uncompromising "Tim Moore's Farm" was an R&B hit in 1949); Gold Star (where he hit with "T-Model Blues" that same year); Sittin' in With ("Give Me Central 209" and "Coffee Blues" were national chart entries in 1952) and its Jax subsidiary; the major labels Mercury and Decca; and, in 1954, a remarkable batch of sides for Herald where Hopkins played blistering electric guitar on a series of blasting rockers ("Lightnin's Boogie," "Lightnin's Special," and the amazing "Hopkins' Sky Hop") in front of drummer Ben Turner and bassist Donald Cooks (who must have had bleeding fingers, so torrid were some of the tempos).

But Hopkins' style was apparently too rustic and old-fashioned for the new generation of rock & roll enthusiasts (they should have checked out "Hopkins' Sky Hop"). He was back on the Houston scene by 1959, largely forgotten. Fortunately, folklorist Mack McCormick rediscovered the guitarist, who was dusted off and presented as a folk-blues artist; a role that Hopkins was born to play. Pioneering musicologist Sam Charters produced Hopkins in a solo context for Folkways Records that same year, cutting an entire LP, Lightnin' Hopkins, in Hopkins' tiny apartment (on a borrowed guitar). The results helped introduced his music to an entirely new audience.

Lightnin' Hopkins went from gigging at back-alley gin joints to starring at collegiate coffeehouses, appearing on TV programs, and touring Europe to boot. His once-flagging recording career went right through the roof, with albums for World Pacific; Vee-Jay; Bluesville; Bobby Robinson's Fire label (where he cut his classic "Mojo Hand" in 1960); Candid; Arhoolie; Prestige; Verve; and, in 1965, the first of several LPs for Stan Lewis' Shreveport-based Jewel logo.

Hopkins generally demanded full payment before he'd deign to sit down and record, and seldom indulged a producer's desire for more than one take of any song. His singular sense of country time befuddled more than a few unseasoned musicians; from the 1960s on, his solo work is usually preferable to band-backed material.

Filmmaker Les Blank captured the Texas troubadour's informal lifestyle most vividly in his acclaimed 1967 documentary, The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins. As one of the last great country bluesmen, Hopkins was a fascinating figure who bridged the gap between rural and urban styles. ~ Bill Dahl, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: The Complete Prestige/Bluesville Recordings

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3
Disc 4
Disc 5
Disc 6
Disc 7

Comments

we're pregnant
jimmyde3
Damn !!
Lightnin' like to Boogie
I saw him in telluride in 1977
who did free form patterns?
Man been there and came home love the song
He can sing and play blues, cause he's been and came back through them. True feeling artist!
man, this satisfies
Times had changed, lighnin Hopkins kept his original sound. This made him stand out and above!
Hmmmm... ;)
If my heart could speak, it would sound like Lightnin' Hopkins! He always reminds me of why I love music. His songs are simple and rustic, but full of soul and power.
yeaw
Yea drinkin wine, drinkin wine Hell yea lets pass that wine, drinkin wine lol. Love the guy.
lightnin'!!! ! ! ! !
N
YEAH
I love this music
loneoak
Lightnin' was the very first musician I ever paid my own money to hear. I was 16 and he came to a tiny folk club in San Diego. A friend and I sat in the front, about 2 feet away from the small stage he sat on. Seeing we were really into the music, he chatted with us between songs and and at the end of his first set. He could not have been kinder or more cool, a real gentleman.
Lightnin' Hopkins>>a lot better than bb King but not as appreciated
This Man wails out the BLUES
dr.barrymcoh n
They are all students of the great Robert Johnson....
**Hi** ((Saw this))

If you follow the directions and repost this message 4 times on any song within 10 minuets you will come in contact with good fortune. Go to http://givem e m o n e y f o r n o r e a s o n . w e e b l y . c o m / , click anywhere and type (signal 5) then go Wikipedia and click random article and your good fortune will be in relation to that article. ****IMPORTAN T * * * * FOLLOW the directions with COMPLETE precision, visiting the websites in the correct order.
I agree with Gayle and understand where she is coming from. Today's music is all about degrading each other. It's amazing how much funding a record company can get under the table from the government to help promote self-hate to the black communities.
Now this is music!
Gayle i understand wat you are trying to say but not all music today is bad. It sounds a little racist when you say things like that because it no longer is just about being black its a cultural thing. Music today represents one of the few "freedoms" we have left . The freedom to say wat you want and feel. It may not be your type of music but it doesnt mean it is sending JUST terrible lyrics (although most of them do) but lets people know you can say wats on your mind.
Deep Ellum ,lighting and Blind Lemmon spirits are still on the street corners.
kadenia
well said Gayle.thank you.
Why can't it be just about the music?
They don't make em like they used to. The old black bluesmen of the US had so much class and charisma, the crappy African American young men spewing misogyny and terrible lyrics could learn so much from the likes of Lightnin' Hopkins, RL Burnside, Howlin' Wolf, so many more greats from that time!
chesterdixon 8 1
this is what got me into guitar. i need to start a two piece blues band NOW
frankgpotter
I LOVE THIS MUSIC. Some old black man plaid like that when i was young boy,in the Va countryin 1950
randallmckay
I was raised in the same town Lightning was born in. Centerville, TX. Blues is big down here.
Whew!
Lightnin' is awsome. Gotta love those Texas blues!!!!
Lawdy i love it
Lightnin' is my favorite to have on the overhead system through the house,and have drink with a cigar!
so great, so cool
riverratsbu
god given
doe bell
webersf
Lightnin' Hopkins Is incredible !
shankandslic e
there were ( and stiil are) veryfew bluesman who could playthe traditional boogie-woogi e technique ( open string e- chord .. openstring a-chord and b-chord than lightnin' hopkins a true american icon
robbro_40
Blues royalty!
Lightnin' Hopkins, the worlds first Bronie. And a marvelous guitarist. I've always idolized him. Ain't no body who could play like him.
wenberep
could you search for a album called recycling the blues and other related stuff featuring taj mahal and ligktnin'hop k i n s ? reply to mjohnervin@y a h o o . c o m thank you.
abracadavero u s
You gets no bread with one meat ball. One meat baaaaall...

Wow. This guy could milk a line. Incredible!
luv it
jgd821
It's alright!
Gonna pull a party till the gin runs out!
Dirty South?
dalecochran
GOOD,Very Good Blues that puts you in the mellow state of your mind and keeps you in that mellow blues mind every body has.They just don't notice they have it because they don't follow The the history of this GREAT land of the FREE.THANK YOU VETERANS AND BLUESME, GOD BLESS AMERICA.
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