Lightning Hopkins was Born Samual John Hopkins in 1912. He was known primarily as an American and country blues singer, guitarist, pianist and songwriter. He hailed from Centerville Texas and he was right by Rolling Stone as number 71 on the greatest guitarists of all time. Known as one of the great American storytellers, Lightnin’ Hopkins was best known as blending together elements of jazz and poetry into his blues.
He started playing music at the age of eight and began collaborating with Blind Lemon Jefferson at a church picnic in Buffalo Texas. He got further instruction from his older cousin blues singer Alger “Texas” Alexander and would also collaborate with another cousin Frankie Lee Sims.
Hopkins and Jefferson continue to collaborate in play together at various social gatherings until the mid-1930s when Hopkins was sent to prison for an unknown offense. It wasn’t until the year 1946 where he was discovered singing in the third Ward and invited to Los Angeles for a series of session recordings with Gold Star Records.
Lightnin’ Hopkins is well-known as being one of the greatest demonstrators of the 12 bar blues template. He used rather loose phrasing, but many of his songs were done in a talking style within the 12 bar format. Many of his songs included humor and double entendre too.
Hopkin’s passed away in 1982 at the age of 69. Based off of his obituary in the New York Times, he was described as one of the great country blues singers and perhaps one of the greatest single influence rock guitar players for a generation. His hollow box Gibson J160e remains on display at the rock ‘n roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. His music is been celebrated widely over generations and he has won several awards including a notable Grammy lifetime achievement award.