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ROOSEVELT SYKES

Born: January 31 1906 in Elmar, died: July 17 1983 in New Orleans

Roosevelt Sykes, one of the most famous and prolific blues pianists, He was a big man, a big left hand, a big voice, a big influence on blues piano playing. Precious few pianists could boast the thundering boogie prowess of Roosevelt Sykes - and even fewer could chase away the blues with his blues as the rotund cigar-chomping 88s ace did.

Photo of Roosevelt Sykes

The Original Honeydripper! The ever-dapper Sykes was one of Blues' true Immortals. His recording career spanned seven decades and included an array of timeless classics. There was absolutely nothing downbeat about this roly-poly, effervescent pianist (nicknamed "Honeydripper" for his youthful prowess around the girls), whose lengthy career spanned the pre-war and postwar eras with no interruption whatsoever. Sykes's romping boogies and hilariously risqué lyrics (his double-entendre gems included "Dirty Mother for You," "Ice Cream Freezer," and "Peeping Tom") characterize his monumental contributions to the blues idiom - he was a pioneering piano-pounder responsible for the seminal pieces "44 Blues," "Driving Wheel," and "Night Time Is the Right Time."

Photo of Roosevelt Sykes

Performed Songs By:

Joe Liggins ,Joe Josea ,

Fats WallerLeroy Carr ,

Andy Razaf ,

Henry Townsend ,

Eddie Taylor ,

Joe Primrose ,

Traditional ,

Johnny Shines ,

E. Johnson ,

Cecil Gant ,

Dootsie Williams ,

Kent Cooper ,

T. Walker ,

Josea ,

Louisiana Red ,

Charles "Cow Cow" Davenport . Just to mention a few!

Worked With:

Armand Jackson ,

Big Sid Catlett ,

Jump Jackson Ernest "Big" Crawford ,

Fred Below ,

Lonnie Johnson ,

Johnny Morton ,

Leonard Caston ,

Bill Casimir ,

Peetie Wheatstraw ,

Edith North Johnson ,

Oett Mallard , and many more.

Photo of Roosevelt Sykes [bottom] with Big Bill Broonzy

Biography / Profile

Roosevelt Sykes was born on January 31, 1906 in Elmar, Arkansas although he was raised in St. Louis. He learned to play the organ in church. This allowed him to move over to the piano. He soon began to work in barrelhouses and jukes in Helena, Arkansas often working with pianist Lee Green. He kept St. Louis as his base of operation, but frequently traveled to Memphis and Chicago in the late 20's. He first recorded in 1929, his version of "Forty-Four Blues". This was released on the Okeh Record label. This helped to establish his reputation as one of the best blues pianists.

Roosevelt recorded for the Victor and Decca labels during the 1930's. He often recorded under pseudonyms like Easy Papa Johnson, Dobby Bragg or Willie Kelly. Sykes moved to Chicago in 1941 and continued to record. He worked with Memphis Minnie as well as recording with the Jump Jackson Band. He also recorded on his own and as a sideman for the Bluebird and Bullet labels. Roosevelt's nickname was Honeydripper (for his way with women) and so he formed a band called the Honeydrippers and began to tour the South regularly in World War II.

In 1954, Roosevelt left Chicago and moved to New Orleans when the electric blues began to dominate the Chicago blues scene. He found plenty of work in this area. In the 1960's, he toured Europe during the blues-folk revival and kept a full schedule recording for Decca, Prestige-Bluesville, Crown and Delmark Records. He settled in New Orleans during the late '60s, where he remained a local treasure.

Roosevelt Sykes continued to work, playing his boogie-woogie style, through the 70's until his death on July 17, 1983. Roosevelt Sykes music is available on The Honeydripper (Original Blues Classics).

Photo of Roosevelt Sykes

Discography [selected]

Boogie Honky Tonk
Roosevelt Sykes
Chicago Blues Festival
2003 The Way I Feel
1990 Music Is My Business [Blues Alliance]
1987 Raining in My Heart
1979 Barrelhouse Blues & Stomps
1978 Original Honeydripper
1977 Blue Bird No. 10
1977 Is Blue and Ribald
1975 Hard Drivin' Blues
1973 Feel Like Blowing My Horn
1973 Urban Blues
1973 Dirty Double Mother
1971 Honeydripper's Duke's Mixture
1967 Blues from Bar Rooms
1963 Blues
1962 Roosevelt Sykes Sings the Blues
1961 Honeydripper [Prestige/Bluesville]
1960 The Return of Roosevelt Sykes
1959 Big Man of Blues

Box Set/Compilations

West Helena Blues: The Postwar Years, Vol. 2
2003 Honeydripper [Fabulous]
2001 The Essential
2001 1944-1950, Vol. 2: The Honey Dripper
2000 Honeydripper [Aim]
2000 Nasty But It's Clean
2000 Roosevelt Sykes: 1929-1942
2000 The Honey Dripper, Vol.1: 1934-1942
1999 Grind It!
1999 1931-1941
1999 Music Is My Business [Charly]
1998 Rock It
1997 The Meek Roosevelt Sykes
1997 The Honeydripper [Storyville]
1996 Blues Man
1996 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival, Vol. 3
1995 Blues by Roosevelt "The Honey-Dripper" Sykes
1994 Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 8 (1945-1947)
1994 Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 10 (1951-1957)
1994 Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 9 (1947-1951)
1992 Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 6 (1939-1941)
1992 Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 4 (1934-1936)
1992 Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 3 (1931-1933)
1992 Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 2 (1930-1931)
1992 Gold Mine: Live in Europe
1992 Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 7 (1941-1944)
1992 Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 5 (1937-1939)
1992 Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 1 (1929-1930)
1988 Roosevelt Sykes (1929-1941)
1972 The Country Blues Piano (1929-1932)

Photo of Roosevelt Sykes [right] and Boogie Wookie Red

Also Appears On
Big Four, 1933-1941: the Piano Blues, Vol. 12
Blues in History, Vol. 4
Favorite Country Blues: Piano-Guitar Duets, 1929-1935
Hard Time Blues: St. Louis, 1933-1940
Nashville Jumps: R & B from Buller, 1946-1953
Piano Blues, Vol. 5 [Magpie]
Roosevelt Sykes: 1929-1934
2003 Classic Blues from Smithsonian Folkways
2003 Classic Blues from Smithsonian Folkways, Vol. 2
2003 Delmark -- 50 Years of Jazz and Blues: Jazz & Blues Box Set
2003 Down on the Levee: The Piano Blues of St. Louis, Vol. 2
2003 Le Blues 1925-1952
2003 Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey
2003 Masters of the Boogie Piano
2003 Original Blues Classics Sampler: Bluesville
2003 Rough Guide to Chicago Blues
2003 Rude Dudes
2003 Tellin' My Story
2003 Wolf Records 20th Anniversary Collection
2002 Chicago Blues Festival '70
2002 Golden Greats: Greatest Blues
2002 Honkers & Bar Walkers, Vol. 3
2002 It's All About the Blues [Box]
2002 Legendary Blues: Late Night Blues
2002 Legendary Blues: Piano Blues
2002 The Blues and Other Songs
2002 The Prestige: Bluesville Sampler
2002 Twenty First St. Stomp: The Piano Blues of St. Louis
2002 When the Sun Goes Down, Vol. 3: That's Chicago's South Side
2002 When the Sun Goes Down, Vol. 4: That's All Right
2002 When the Sun Goes Down: The Secret History of Rock & Roll
2001 Chicago Blues Festival: 1969-1986
2001 Jazz & Blues Piano, Vol. 2: 1924-1947
2001 Jump the Boogie: Rhythm & Blues All Stars, Vol. 4
2001 Kokomo Arnold: The Essential
2001 Piano Blues [Hallmark/ABM]
2001 Piano Blues: The Essential
2001 Southern Country Blues, Vol. 2
2001 The Blues Box [Simply the Best]
2001 The Legends Collection: Blues
2000 1946-1947
2000 20th Century Blues [Catfish]
2000 A Shot in the Dark: Nashville Jumps: Blues & Rhythm on Nashville Indepedent Labels
2000 As Good As It Gets: Country Blues
2000 As Good as It Gets: Boogie Woogie
2000 Blues Collection, Vol. 2 [Dressed to Kill]
2000 Bluesville Years, Vol. 12: Jump, Jumpin' the Blues
2000 Classic Blues, Vol. 4
2000 Dirty Blues
2000 Juke Joint Saturday Night: Classic Piano Blues Rags & Stomps
2000 Nothing But the Blues [Blues History]
2000 Nothing but the Blues [Import]
1999 Baby's Got the Blues
1999 Piano Blues: Boogie Woogie & Ragtime, 1927-1941
1999 Rural Blues, Vol. 3
1999 Straight Outta Burbank: The Bomp! 25th Anniversary Collection
1999 Urban Blues, Vol. 1-2
1998 Big Boss Men
1998 Boogie Woogie Stomp [Indigo]
1998 Chicago Blues [Delta Box]
1998 Jump with a Shuffle: Rhythm & Blues All Stars, Vol. 1
1998 Men of Blues
1998 Trouble in Mind: Original Blues Standards
1997 1946: The R&B Hits
1997 Blind Pig Records: 20th Anniversary Collection
1997 Blues Legends, Vol. 3
1997 Essential Blues Piano
1997 I Need a Shot: Essential Recordings Urban Blues
1997 In the Tradition: Collection of Classic Blues
1997 Southern Country Blues, Vol. 1
1997 Too Late, Too Late Blues, Vol. 7
1996 20 Years of Stony Plain
1996 Blues Classics [MCA]
1996 Full Spectrum Blues
1996 King Biscuit Blues: The Helena Blues Legacy
1996 Need a Shot: The Essential Recordings of Urban Blues
1996 Platinum Collection: Blues, Blues, Blues
1996 Smithsonian Folkways American Roots Collection
1996 Somebody Loan Me a Dime
1996 The Best of Boogie Woogie, Vol. 1: 1928-1930
1996 The Essential Recordings of Piano Blues and Boogie: Strut That Thin
1995 That's Blues
1995 The Bluesville Years, Vol. 1: Big Blues Honks and Wails
1995 The Bluesville Years, Vol. 4: In the Key of Blues
1994 The Blues Box [Laserlight]
1994 The Specialty Story [Box]
1993 Chicago Blues Festival, Vol. 1: 1969-1971
1993 Delmark 40th Anniversary Blues
1993 Prime Chops: Blind Pig Sampler, Vol. 2
1993 The Blues [Blue City]
1993 The Blues: Smithsonian Collection of Classic Blues Singers
1993 The Jewel/Paula Records Story: Blues, Rhythm & Blues and Soul Recordings
1992 Roots 'n' Blues: The Retrospective 1925-1950
1992 Windy City Blues [Delta]
1991 Blue Ivory
1991 Blue Ivory
1991 Legends of the Blues, Vol. 2
1989 Great Tomato Blues Package
1988 20 Great Blues Recordings of the 50s and 60s, Vol. 1
1978 10th Anniversary New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
1972 Blues Piano Orgy
1968 Memphis & the Delta 1950
1953 Compact Jazz: Best of Blues
1951 Welcome to the Blues, Vol. 2

Video
1995 Masters of the Country Blues

Photo of Roosevelt Sykes

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