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Time Capsule: Brought up with the Blues
2/1/2001
The "King" of blues guitar reminisces about his roots.
I was born in Mississippi in 1925, the son of a sharecropper. Like other young black men in Mississippi, I went to work on a plantation. I guess the earliest sound of blues that I can remember was in the fields while people would be pickin' cotton or choppin' cotton. Usually one guy would be plowin' by himself — he'd take his hoe and chop way out in front of everybody else — and you would hear this guy sing most of the time. No special lyrics or anything. Just what he felt at the time. You would hear him sing something like, "Oh I wake up in the mornin' ' bout the break of day." And you could hear it on and on like that.

I also had an uncle named Jack Bennett, and Uncle Jack would go out in the early evenings, and on his way home at night you would hear him sing that same kind of thing: "If I don't get home in the mornin', things are gonna be bad." And you could hear it all over the bayous, all around the many little places, and of course you could hear people say, "There goes Jack…he's goin' home."

Those early sounds stay with me even today. When I sing and play, I can hear those same sounds that I used to hear as a kid. In our little neighborhood, there was nothing else hardly to do but sing, and usually we would go from house to house each week singing, like Monday night maybe we'd go to my house and Wednesday night we'd go to yours, and probably even Friday night because there wasn't much else to do. It kept us close together, so that was another part of the blues that's sorta like the church social workers. They kind of keep you up with everything that's happening, and the feeling that you get from that is really togetherness.

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