R.L.: We were raised up pretty close to Fred McDowell and I was around him and Rainy Burnet and Son Hibbler.
Kenny: He’s still living isn’t he (referring to Hibbler)?
R.L.: Yeah he play gospel now. When I was coming up he was married to my aunty. He was playing the music and all that and I was listening to them and I finally got that I wanted to do it. I watched Fred (McDowell) and I wanted to do that, you know, after I got to where I could play some. I went up to Chicago. Muddy Waters was married to my first cousin and I stayed about 3 years and I was over to his house about every other night. I’d watch him play, you know. I was working during the day at the foundry and every night I’d go over to Muddy’s, we only lived a couple of blocks apart.
Ray: When was that?
R.L.: The late 40’s. My father lived about 2 blocks from him. Friday night he played up at Zanzibar, it didn’t cost nothin’ to get in, you just had to pay something if you wanted to get a seat in there. (laughs) But man on Maxwell Street, on Sunday, there used to be a LOT of blues players out there.
Here is a modern take on the blues from a blues man,named R. L. Burnside. If you are unaware of him here’s a little information. Born Robert Lee Burnside,(November 23, 1926 – September 1, 2005), was a North Mississippi hill country blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist who lived much of his life in and around Holly Springs, Mississippi. He played music for much of his life, but did not receive much attention until the early 1990s. In the latter half of the 1990s, Burnside repeatedly recorded with Jon Spencer, garnering crossover appeal and introducing his music to a new fanbase within the underground garage rock scene.
R.L. Burnside: See My Jumper Hanging On the Line (1978)
R.L. Burnside at home in Independence, Mississippi, shot by Alan Lomax, Worth Long, and John Bishop in August, 1978. For more information about the American Patchwork filmwork, Alan Lomax, and his collections, visit http://culturalequity.org.
I ask him about the man he killed and he gives a variation of his standard response: ‘I didn’t mean to kill nobody. I just meant to shoot the sonofabitch in the head and two times in the chest. Him dying was between him and the Lord.’
It happened at a dice game long ago; Burnside had beaten the man out of $400. In court he claimed self-defence, although one of the bullets entered the back of the victim’s head. Burnside was working for a powerful white plantation owner at the time, driving a tractor. His boss wanted him back at work so he fixed things with the judge and R.L. ended up serving only six months.
R.L. Burnside: Poor Boy A Long Way From Home (1978)
R.L. Burnside at home in Independence, Mississippi, shot by Alan Lomax, Worth Long, and John Bishop in August 1978. For more information about the American Patchwork filmwork, Alan Lomax, and his collections, visit http://culturalequity.org.