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Blues great David 'Honey Boy' Edwards dies at 96

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 30th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

He was believed to be the last surviving Delta bluesman. His musical legacy stretched all the way back to blues legend Robert Johnson. Grammy-winning Blues musician David "Honey Boy" Edwards has died at his Chicago home. He was 96 years old.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) Edwards maintained a highly active lifestyle of touring and performing, right until he began to suffer from heart ailments in May. Right up until then, he would travel across the country and the world playing blues standards, and spend time talking and sharing his copious life stories with fans afterwards.

In his 90s, he was still playing about 70 shows a year. Edwards would visit with the audience after every show, taking pictures, signing autographs and talking with fans.

Born in 1915 in Mississippi, Edwards learned the guitar growing up and started playing professionally at age 17 in Memphis. He came to Chicago in the 1940s and played on Maxwell Street, small clubs and street corners.

Edwards had played with the nation's greatest bluesmen, including Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Charlie Patton and Muddy Waters. Among Edwards' hit songs were "Long Tall Woman Blues," "Gamblin Man" and "Just Like Jesse James."

Edwards won a 2008 Grammy for traditional blues album. He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 2010. Many feel that his passing represents the loss of the last direct link to the first generation of Mississippi blues musicians.

"Blues ain't never going anywhere," Edwards told The Associated Press in 2008.
 
"It can get slow, but it ain't going nowhere. You play a lowdown dirty shame slow and lonesome, my mama dead, my papa across the sea I ain't dead but I'm just supposed to be blues. You can take that same blues, make it up-tempo, a shuffle blues, that's what rock `n' roll did with it. So blues ain't going nowhere. Ain't goin' nowhere."

An oral historian of the music genre, Edwards would tell biographical stories between songs at his shows. He was recorded for the Library of Congress in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1942.

Edwards gathered those stories in the 1997 book "The World Don't Owe Me Nothing: The Life and Times of Delta Bluesman Honeyboy Edwards." In the book, Edwards wrote that his father bought a guitar for $8 from a sharecropper and Edwards learned to play in 1929.

"I watched my daddy play that guitar, and whenever I could I would pick it up and strum on it," Edwards wrote.

Edwards earned his nickname "Honey Boy" from his sister, who told his mother to "look at honey boy" when Edwards stumbled as he learned to walk as a toddler. He is survived by his daughter Betty Washington and stepdaughter Dolly McGinister.

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