Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page

Like Memphis, Tennessee, Atlanta was a staging post for itinerant musicians and like Memphis, it was home to an impressive number of guitarists who established a very distinctive style of playing that became synonymous with the city. It was also the location for the first country blues artist, Ed Andrews, to be recorded. Three years later, Julius Daniels was the first Carolina bluesman to record. Atlanta was also a recording center for out-of-state artists such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Bo Carter, the Memphis Jug Band, Blind Willie Johnson and Hambone Willie Newbern. A further school of blues gathered around Peg Leg Howell and Eddie Anthony.The source of Atlanta’s principal blues style was Curley Weaver’s mother, Savannah Shepard, who also taught the Hicks brothers, Charlie and Robert, known on record as Charlie Lincoln and Barbecue Bob. Her influence is also heard in the music of Willie Baker and George Carter. She didn’t teach Blind Willie McTell but he was probably the inspiration for Riley Puckett’s ‘A Darkey’s Wail’. Weaver and McTell recorded together as the Georgia Cotton Pickers, while Weaver also worked with Fred McMullen and Buddy Moss as the Georgia Browns. Willie McTell also accompanied Weaver and artists such as Harris & Harris and Mary Willis. The wealth of musical talent recorded in Atlanta, included Sloppy Henry, Too Tight Henry, Billy Bird, Lonnie Coleman, Barefoot Bill, Lil McClintock, King David’s Jug Band and the Birmingham Jug Band. World War II put paid to recording in Atlanta until the end of the 1940s, when record companies returned to the city. McTell and Weaver were still around and other country blues artists like Frank Edwards, David Wylie and Pinetop Slim made their mark. But their music was in decline as rhythm and blues rose in importance. Atlanta’s stars included Billy Wright, Piano Red and Blow Top Lynn, sometimes backed by bands led by tenor-man Fred Jackson. Others included Tommy Brown, Melvin Smith, Zilla Mays, Willie Brown and Joyce Jackson. Most popular of all were Chuck Willis and Little Richard, each went on to greater fame after making impressive recording debuts. They merely underlined once again what a valuable breeding ground for talent Atlanta had continued to be.