Eddie James House, Jr. (March 21, 1902 – October
19, 1988), better known as Son House, was an influential
American blues singer and guitarist.
House was born, the middle of seventeen brothers, in Riverton,
two miles from Clarksdale, Mississippi. Around age seven
or eight, he was brought by his mother to Tallulah, Louisiana
after his parents separated. The young Son House was determined
to become a Baptist preacher, and at age fifteen began his
preaching career. Despite the church's firm stand against
blues music and the sinful world which revolved around it,
House became attracted to it and taught himself guitar in
his mid-twenties, after moving back to the Clarksdale area,
inspired by the work of Willie Wilson. He began playing
alongside Charley Patton, Willie Brown, Robert Johnson,
Fiddlin' Joe Martin, and Leroy Williams, around Robinsonville,
Mississippi and north to Memphis, Tennessee until 1942.
After killing a man, allegedly in self-defense, he spent
time on Parchman Farm in 1928 and 1929. The official story
on the killing is that sometime around 1927 or 28, he was
playing in a juke joint when a man went on a shooting spree.
Son was wounded in the leg, and shot the man dead. He received
a fifteen-year sentence at Parchmen Farm prison.
Son House recorded for Paramount Records in 1930 and for
Alan Lomax from the Library of Congress in 1941 and 1942.
He then faded from public view until the country blues revival
in the 1960s when, after a long search of the Mississippi
Delta region by Nick Perls, Dick Waterman and Phil Spiro,
he was "re-discovered" in June, 1964 in Rochester,
New York where he had lived since 1943; House had been retired
from the music business for many years, working for the
New York Central Railroad, and was completely unaware of
the international revival of enthusiasm for his early recordings.
He subsequently toured extensively in the US and Europe
and recorded for CBS records. Like Mississippi John Hurt
he was welcomed into the music scene of the 1960s and played
at Newport Folk Festival in 1964, the New York Folk Festival
in July, 1965, and the October, 1967 European tour of the
American Folk Festival along with Skip James and Bukka White.
In the summer of 1970, House toured Europe once again, including
an appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival; a recording
of his London concerts was released by Liberty Records.
Ill health plagued his later years and in 1974 he retired
once again, and later moved to Detroit, Michigan, where
he remained until his death from cancer of the larynx. He
was buried at Mt. Hazel Cemetery on Lahser south of Seven
Mile. Members of the Detroit Blues Society raised money
through benefit concerts to put a fitting monument on his
grave. He had been married five times.
House's innovative style featured very strong, repetitive
rhythms, often played with the aid of a bottleneck, coupled
with singing that owed more than a nod to the hollers of
the chain gangs. The music of Son House, in contrast to
that of, say, Blind Lemon Jefferson, was emphatically a
dance music, meant to be heard in the noisy atmosphere of
a barrelhouse or other dance hall. House was the primary
influence on Muddy Waters and also an important influence
on Robert Johnson, who would later take his music to new
levels. It was House who, speaking to awe-struck young blues
fans in the 1960s, spread the legend that Johnson had sold
his soul to the Devil in exchange for his musical powers.
More recently, House's music has influenced rock groups
such as the White Stripes, who covered his song Death Letter
(also reworked by Skip James and Robert Johnson) on their
album De Stijl, and later performed it at the 2004 Grammy
Awards. The White Stripes also incorporated sections of
a traditional song Son House recorded, John the Revelator,
into the song Cannon from their eponymous debut album The
Describing House's 1967 appearance at the De Montfort Hall
in Leicester, England, Bob Groom wrote in Blues World magazine,
It is difficult to describe the transformation that took
place as this smiling, friendly man hunched over his guitar
and launched himself, bodily it seemed, into his music.
The blues possessed him like a 'lowdown shaking chill' and
the spellbound audience saw the very incarnation of the
blues as, head thrown back, he hollered and groaned the
disturbing lyrics and flailed the guitar, snapping the strings
back against the fingerboard to accentuate the agonized
rhythm. Son's music is the centre of the blues experience
and when he performs it is a corporeal thing, audience and
singer become as one.
Son House's recorded works fall into four categories:
• A few (6-10 songs according to source) recorded
in 1930 for Paramount Records, for commercial release on
78s. Many of these were recorded as two songs with the same
title, e.g. "My Black Mama" parts 1 and 2. See
also Clarksdale Moan.
• Alan Lomax's non-commercial recordings ("Library
of Congress Sessions") in 1941 and 1942, a total of
• Studio recordings from 1965 and later following
• Live recordings, also from this period.
These have been collected, issued and reissued in a baffling
array of ways, some of which use the word "complete"
in unexpected ways. The following list is partial and uncategorized.
• The Complete Library Of Congress Sessions (1964)
Travelin' Man Cd 02
• Blues From The Mississippi Delta (W/Short) (1964)
• The Legendary Son House: Father Of The Delta Blues
(1965) Columbia 2417
• In Concert (Oberlin College, 1965) Stack-O-Hits
• Delta Blues (1941-1942) Smithsonian 31028
• Son House & Blind Lemon Jefferson (1926-1941)
• Son House - The Real Delta Blues (1964-65 Recordings)
Blue Goose Records 2016
• Son House & The Great Delta Blues Singers (With
Willie Brown,) Document Cd 5002
• Son House At Home : Complete 1969 Document
• Son House (Library Of Congress) Folk Lyric 9002
• John The Revelator Liberty 83391
• American Folk Blues Festival '67 (1 Cut) Optimism
• Son House - 1965-1969 (Mostly Tv Appearances) Private
• Son House - Father Of The Delta Blues : Complete
1965 Sony/Legacy Cd 48867
• Living Legends (1 Cut, 1966) Verve/Folkways 3010
• Real Blues (1 Cut, U Of Chicago, 1964) Takoma 7081
• John The Revelator - 1970 London Sessions Sequel
• Great Bluesmen/Newport (2 Cuts, 1965) Vanguard Cd
• Blues With A Feeling (3 Cuts, 1965) Vanguard Cd
• Son House/Bukka White - Masters Of The Country Blues
Yazoo Video 500 :
• Delta Blues And Spirituals (1995)
• In Concert (Live) (1996)
• Live At Gaslight Cafe, 1965 (2000)
• New York Central Live (2003)
• Delta Blues (1941-1942) (2003) Biograph Cd 118
• Proper Introduction to Son House (2004) Proper (contains
everything recorded on years 1930, 1940 & 1941)
here for a Son House Poster
here for Son House Lyrics
here for Son House video clips