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Sleepy John Estes

Big Bill Broonzy called John Estes' style of singing "crying" the blues because of its overt emotional quality. Actually, his vocal style harks back to his tenure as a work-gang leader for a railroad maintenance crew, where his vocal improvisations and keen, cutting voice set the pace for work activities. Nicknamed "Sleepy" John Estes, supposedly because of his ability to sleep standing up, he teamed with mandolinist Yank Rachell and harmonica player Hammie Nixon to play the house party circuit in and around Brownsville in the early '20s. The same team reunited 40 years later to record for Delmark and play the festival circuit. Never an outstanding guitarist, Estes relied on his expressive voice to carry his music, and the recordings he made from 1929 on have enormous appeal and remain remarkably accessible today.

Despite the fact that he performed for mixed black and white audiences in string band, jug band, and medicine show formats, his music retains a distinct ethnicity and has a particularly plaintive sound. Astonishingly, he recorded during six decades for Victor, Decca, Bluebird, Ora Nelle, Sun, Delmark, and others. Over the course of his career, his music remained simple yet powerful, and despite his sojourns to Memphis and Chicago he retained a traditional down-home sound. Some of his songs are deeply personal statements about his community and life, such as "Lawyer Clark" and "Floating Bridge." Other compositions have universal appeal ("Drop Down Mama" and "Someday Baby") and went on to become mainstays in the repertoires of countless musicians. One of the true masters of his idiom, he lived in poverty, yet was somehow capable of turning his experiences and the conditions of his life into compelling art. ~ Barry Lee Pearson
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Legendary Country Blues Artists

Disc 1

1. The Girl I Love, She Got Long Curly Hair

2. Broken-Hearted, Ragged And Dirty Too

3. Divin' Duck Blues

4. Little Sarah

5. Black Mattie Blues

6. T-Bone Steak Blues

7. Milk Cow Blues

8. Street Car Blues

9. Expressman Blues

10. Whatcha Doin?

11. Poor John Blues

12. Stack O' Dollars

13. My Black Gal Blues

14. Sweet Mama

15. Down South Blues

16. Stop That Thing

17. Someday Baby Blues

18. Who's Been Telling You Buddy Brown Blues

19. Married Woman Blues

20. Drop Down Mama

21. Government Money

22. I Wanna Tear It All The Time

23. Vernita Blues

24. I Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More

25. Floating Bridge

Disc 2

1. Need More Blues

2. Jack And Jill Blues

3. Poor Man's Friend (T Model)

4. Hobo Jungle Blues

5. Airplane Blues

6. Everybody Oughta Make A Change

7. Liquor Store Blues

8. Easin' Back To Tennessee

9. Fire Department Blues (Martha Hardin)

10. Clean Up At Home

11. New Someday Baby

12. Brownsville Blues

13. Special Agent (Railroad Police Blues)

14. Mailman Blues

15. Time Is Drawing Near

16. Mary Come On Home

17. Jailhouse Blues

18. Tell Me How About It (Mr. Tom's Blues)

19. Drop Down (I Don't Feel Welcome Here)

20. Don't You Want To Know

21. You Shouldn't Do That

22. When The Saints Go Marching In

23. Lawyer Clark Blues

24. Little Laura Blues

25. Working Man Blues

26. Harlem Bound

27. Stone Blind

Disc 3
Disc 4

12. In My Father's House

17. Black Gal Swing

22. Come Back Home, Little Girl

x

Track List: Someday Baby Blues

1. Broken Hearted, Ragged And Dirty Too

2. Floating Bridge

3. Lawyer Clark Blues

4. Harlem Bound

5. Divin' Duck Blues

6. Liquor Store Blues

7. Whatcha Doin'

8. Working Man Blues

9. Someday Baby Blues

10. The Girl I Love She Got Long Curly Hair

11. Special Agent Blues

12. Easin' Back To Tennessee

13. Stone Blind Blues

14. Milk Cow Blues

15. Clean Up At Home

16. Tell Me How About It

17. I Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More

18. Jack And Jill Blues

19. You Shouldn't Do That

20. Stop That Thing

21. Hobo Jungle Blues

22. Brownsville Blues

23. Drop Down

24. Everybody Oughta Make A Change

25. Time Is Drawing Near

Comments

Report as inappropriate
Had the extreme pleasure to see Sleepy John and Yank Rachell more than a few times at the Ash Grove in Los Angles....
Nothin' but great music...
Report as inappropriate
jennlucysmom
I am Lawyer Clarke's great granddaughte r and incredibly proud of my Brownsville TN heritage. I have seen (on albums and in print) that the song title is Lawyer Clark. Lawyer Clarke is spelled with an e and his full name was Hugh Lawrence Clarke. He was a state senator, lawyer and judge.
Report as inappropriate
rose004
great stuff....lov e the old tyme blues....the best
!
Report as inappropriate
ssfitzgerald 8
I was lucky enough to hear Sleepy John live in person many years ago, accompanied by his cousin(?) Hammy Nixon, who is one of this country's finest mouth harp players, and he was unforgettabl e .
Report as inappropriate
love this man's voice!
Report as inappropriate
" MAN !!! CRY THOU'S BLUES, SLEEPING AND PLAYING THE BLUES---- TOO MUCH !!! MR. F. THOMAS CLARK
Report as inappropriate
Makes me proud to be from Tennessee.
Report as inappropriate
chasjazz1
Love the heart and soulful sound of this artist.
Report as inappropriate
irwee
deep soul and thought real heart of the loving god if your white black or any color we are children under one roof with the all mighty get it people
Report as inappropriate
.
Report as inappropriate
A master!

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