A brief Blind Lemon jefferson Bio
July 1893, Wortham (Couchman), Texas, USA, d. December 1929,
Chicago, Illinois, USA. Jefferson was one of the earliest
and most influential rural blues singers to record. He was
one of seven children born to Alex Jefferson and Classie
Banks (or Bates) and was either blind or partially blind
from early childhood. As his handicap precluded his employment
as a farm-hand he turned to music and sang at rural parties,
on the streets of small towns, in cafes, juke joints and
brothels. This mode of life turned him into a wanderer and
he travelled far, although he always maintained his links
with Texas. Like many "blind" singers, stories
are told of his ability to find his way around and read
situations. He was usually armed and was even said to have
been involved in shooting incidents.
In late 1925 or early 1926, Jefferson was taken to Chicago
by a Dallas record retailer to record for Paramount Records.
His first offerings were two religious tracks that were
issued under the pseudonym "Reverend L.J. Bates".
Soon after this, he was to begin the long series of blues
recordings that made him famous throughout black America
and even affected the work of rural white musicians. Between
1926 and 1929 he had more than 90 tracks issued, all bar
two appearing on Paramount. His only known photograph, taken
from a Paramount publicity shot, shows a portly man of indeterminate
age wearing clear glasses over closed eyes set in a "baby"
face. He was accorded the distinction (shared with Ma Rainey)
of having a record issued with his picture on the label
and described as "Blind Lemon Jefferson's Birthday
He had a good vocal range, honed by use in widely different
venues, and a complicated, dense, free-form guitar style
that became a nightmare for future analysts and copyists
due to its disregard for time and bar structure; however,
it suited his music perfectly and spoke directly to his
black audience, both in the city and in the country. His
success can be measured by the fact that he once owned two
cars and could afford to hire a chauffeur to drive them.
He is also said to have employed boys to lead him. Lead
Belly and T-Bone Walker both claimed to have worked for
him in this capacity during their youth.
Jefferson's later recordings seemed to lose some of the
originality and impact of his earlier work but he remained
popular until his sudden and somewhat mysterious death.
Legend has it that he froze to death on the streets of Chicago,
although a more likely story is that he died of a heart
attack while in his car, possibly during a snowstorm, and
was abandoned by his driver. At this late date it is unlikely
that the truth will ever be established. His records continue
to be issued after his death and some recorded tributes
have been made. His body was transported back to Texas for