Diddley bow player Lonnie Pitchford was an obscure Delta blues player until he was "discovered" by ethnomusicologist Worth Long. He began to attract crowds playing the music of Robert Johnson, songs like "Come On In My Kitchen" and "Terraplane Blues," on his one-stringed didley bow. Pitchford began playing Johnson's tunes after meeting guitarist Robert Jr. Lockwood at the World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. Lockwood showed Pitchford some basic Johnson chord changes and arrangements, and for several years after that, Pitchford was accompanied by the late Alabama bluesman Johnny Shines, as well as Lockwood.
Pitchford began making his one-stringed diddley bows as a five-year-old, fashioning them mostly out of parts from old electric guitars. Also an accomplished six-string guitarist and piano player, Pitchford has forged his reputation as a skilled diddley bow player. His fascination with blues began as a child, when he heard blues and gospel on the radio. Raised in a musical family, Pitchford got his start playing house parties and learned a lot from his father and brothers, who also played blues guitar and piano.
Pitchford's festival resume includes the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife in Washington, D.C., and several major blues gatherings around the South. He was one of the youngest performers at the 1984 Downhome Blues Festival in Atlanta.
Pitchford's albums include All Around Man for Rooster Blues, a 1994 release, as well as several compilations, including Mississippi Moan, a 1988 release on the German L&R Records; Roots of Rhythm and Blues: A Tribute to the Robert Johnson Era, a 1992 Columbia Records release, and Deep Blues (1992), for Anxious Records.
Although he'd put in dynamic, spirited performances at the Smithsonian Festivals, Pitchford unfortunately didn't tour much because of his lack of recordings. He was able to make occasional road trips to Memphis and other cities where his music was appreciated. He divided his time between road trips to play blues and working as a carpenter. Pitchford was voted as one of Living Blues magazine's "top 40 under 40" new blues players to watch. Unfortunately, his life was cut short in 1998 at the age of 43. ~ Richard Skelly