A Phil Brodie Band ~Tribute Page
SAM LIGHTNIN' HOPKINS
March 15th 1912 ~ January 30th 1982
Texan, Sam Hopkins was a country bluesman of the top most measure, whose career stretched a whole six decades. On his journey, he watched as his genre changed remarkably over the years, but he never much altered his "mournful Lone Star sound", adhering to his own rustic style whether it be on acoustic or electric guitar. This minstrel who couldn't write his name or say his ABC's was an amazing master at story telling and clever lyricist, making his play on words enviable - "... She walks just like she got oil wells in her backyard" !! Sam's agile artistry on guitar made intricate boogie riffs seem so easy, nimble runs using every single string, his dazzling fills, making his amplified guitar howl like a lonely hound, together with his fascinating gift for improvising lyrics to fit whatever situation life might throw, whether it be sadness, happiness, morbid, despair, jovial, whimsical, he had the words, he had the music, this made him a much admired and beloved blues icon, giving many future generations of musicians inspiration, including Jimi Hendrix, who as a boy, would listen to this musical master for hours on end.
Lightnin' Hopkins' fast finger style is very distinct, a style which often included playing, in effect, bass, rhythm, lead, percussion, and vocals, all at the same time. His musical phrasing would often include a long low note at the beginning, the rhythm played in the middle range, then the lead in the high range. By playing this quickly, with occasional slaps of the guitar, the effect of bass, rhythm, percussion & lead would be created. It is said his style was born from spending many hours playing informally without a backing band. He had an incredible knack for writing songs impromptu, and frequently wove myths and legends around a core of truth. His songs were often autobiographical, making him a spokesperson for the southern black community that had no voice in the white mainstream until blues attained a broader popularity through white singers like Elvis.
QUOTE ... Indeed, Hopkins had a bag of licks and patterns that fit largely into two divisions -- slow E and Fast E (with an occasional venture into A). His rhythm and the chord changes go with his feelings at that moment in time and, as such, made it difficult for other musicians to follow. With a few exceptions, his solo recordings later in his life have that quirky sense to them and work well as opposed to hired bands that became hopelessly entangled, to quote a Hopkins song, "like a ball of twine." ~ quote Brian Robertson
A LITTLE BACK GROUND
Sam Hopkins, was born in Centerville, Texas, to Abe and Frances Hopkins. His father died when Sam was only 3, after which the family moved to Leona. Sam was only eight when he made his first guitar, a cigar-box guitar with chicken-wire strings. By ten he was playing with his cousin, Alger Alexander, and the legendry Blind Lemon Jefferson, young Sam became his guide. Also Sam would sometimes join his brothers, blues musicians John Henry and Joel playing round the local bars and coffee houses. In his late teens he took to the road, jumping trains, gambling, drinking and playing any place he cound find. While gaining masses of experience, sadly, 10 years on this road led to a jail sentence at the Houston County Prison Farm in the mid-1930s. Back on the blues curcuit he got his first big break until 1946, when he was heard by talent scout Lola Anne Cullum of Los Angeles. She paired Sam with piano player, Wilson "Thunder" Smith, it is at this point when Sam came up with the name "Lightnin'", and he made his first recording in Los Angeles for Aladdin Records "Katie May," cut on November 9, 1946. He made forty-three recordings for this label, having many national R&B hits such as "Shotgun Blues." and "Big Mama Jump,". Gradually the record label thought his music out of fashion & dated, by the late 50's Sam had slipped into near obscurity and had returned to Houston, playing the gin houses and bars. Luckily he was rediscovered by folklorist Mack McCormick, and Sam Charters produced his recordings. This brought him to the white audience too, who he had a huge effect on, influencing bands such as Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead and the Vaughan brothers. It led to national tours, to TV appearances, to world tours, to a Royal Command Performance appearing in front of Queen Elizibeth in London, UK. Filmmaker Les Blank captured his lifestyle most vividly in his 1967 documentary, "The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins". Unfortunetly in the mid 70's Sam was involved in a bad car accident, which restricted his touring some what. Sam entertained us for 60 years with his amazing music and stories, he continued playing and recording until his death in 1982. His faithful Gibson J-160e guitar is on display at the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, and his Guild Starfire electric guitar is on display at The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
'Best of Lightning
Me My Shotgun' [Masked Weasel]
'Story Songs and Voices of the Blues'
The Sonet Blues Story'
'An Introduction to Lightnin' Hopkins'
'The Little Darlin' Sound of Lightnin' Hopkins' 'Lightnin' Strikes Twice'
'Talk of the Town'
'My Baby's Gone
'Prestige Profiles, Vol. 8'
'The Blues Anthology'
'Lightnin' Hopkins' [St. Clair]
'The Best of Lightnin' Hopkins' [Prestige]
'Hello Central: The Best of Lightnin' Hopkins'
'The Best of Lightnin' Hopkins' [Master Classic]
'Short Haired Woman'
'King of the Texas Blues' [Acrobat]
'All the Classics: 1946-1951'
'Free Form Patterns '[Bonus Tracks]
'The Tradition Masters'
'Live at Newport'
'Take It Easy [Past Perfect]'
'Lightnin' Hopkins & The Blues Summit'
'Lightnin' and the Blues: The Herald Sessions'
'The Best of Lightnin' Hopkins' [Legacy]
'Free Form Patterns' [Charly]
'Hootin' the Blues'
'Hopkins Brothers: Lightnin', Joel, & John Henry'
'Smokes Like Lightnin'
'Blues in My Bottle
'How Many More Years I Got'
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