Son House – Preacher Turned Bluesman
Eddie James House, Jr., famously known as Son House was born March 21, 1902 in Riverton, Mississippi.
House was a delta blues singer and guitarist who helped in pioneering an innovative style featuring strong, repetitive rhythms, that was often played slide guitar. His singing often incorporated elements of southern gospel and spiritual music as House was a preacher and also spent a few years also working as a church pastor. He became a pastor following a religious experienced and used this calling to get out of performing manual labor.
House how ever fell into multiple bad habits such as drinking and womanizing and this which conflicted with his calling. After several years of conflicting beliefs House left the church, although he did from time to time preach a sermon.
House is said to have learned bottleneck slide guitar from James McCoy or Willie Wilson. As with many of the old time blues men the story could differ depending on when and where it was told.
It is said that House spent two years of a fifteen year sentence for killing a man in a Mississippi juke joint that he had been performing in, in either 1927 or 1928. There are however no department of corrections records to verify this.
House was released from jail and told to leave Clarksdale so he walked to Jonestown and caught a train to the small town of Lula, Mississippi. It was there that he met Charley Patton, who had also ended up in Lula after having to leave the Dockery Plantation. Both Patton and Willie Brown had dominated the local market. Eventually they all became friends and traveled some together.
In 1930 House recorded nine songs for Paramount Records. Eight of the songs were released, but they were commercial failures and he did not record again commercially for 35 years. House continued to travel and play with Patton and Brown. He would work as a tractor driver for various plantations in the Lake Cormorant area.
In 1964as part of the folk blues revival, House was rediscovered by Nick Perls, Dick Waterman and Phil Spiro. He had long since been retired and was working at a train station in Rochester, New York.
House went on to again record and tour for another ten years, before retiring again due to lagging health.
House died October 19, 1988 in Detroit, Michigan from cancer.