Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Blind Lemon Jefferson
"Blind" Lemon Jefferson (September, 1893 - December, 1929) was an influential blues singer and guitarist from Texas. He was one of the most popular blues singers of the 1920s. He had an intricate and fast style of guitar playing and a particularly high-pitched voice. He was a founder of the Texas blues sound and an important influence on the next generation of blues singers and guitarists, including Leadbelly and Lightnin Hopkins.
He is believed to have been born in Couchman, near Wortham, Texas. It was long believed that he was born in 1897 but research in 1996 revealed that he was probably born in September, 1893. He was blind or near-blind from a young age, possibly from birth.
In December 1925 or January 1926 he was taken to Chicago to record. He recorded about 100 tracks between 1926 and 1929, and had 43 records issued, all but one for Paramount Records. His first release, in around March 1926, Booster Blues and Dry Southern Blues was a hit. It was largely due to the popularity of artists such as Blind Lemon Jefferson and contemporaries such as Blind Blake and Ma Rainey that Paramount became the leading recording company for the blues in the twenties. Jefferson's earnings enabled him to buy a car and employ chauffeurs.
He was the author of many tunes covered by later musicians, including the classic "See That My Grave is Kept Clean".
Jefferson died in Chicago in December 1929. Paramount Records paid for the return of his body to Texas by train, accompanied by pianist Will Ezell. He was buried at Wortham Negro Cemetery (now Wortham Black Cemetery). Far from his grave being kept clean, it was unmarked until 1967 when a Texas Historical Marker was erected in the general area of his plot, the precise location being unknown. By 1996 the cemetery and marker were in poor condition but a new granite headstone was erected in 1997.
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