Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page

Houston Boines is one of those mysterious figures of the blues who cut a few sides in the 50s and then more or less disappeared. This post contains his entire recorded legacy and, including alternate takes, it's barely enough to make up a single LP. It's doubtful that such an LP will ever be officially complied, and Boines' tunes will likely remain scattered across various compilations that go in and out of print. Therefore, I have taken the liberty of collecting all the Houston Boines tunes in existence, in the hopes that it might introduce some folks to his music who might otherwise have overlooked him.

I encountered the first two songs on this compilation years ago on a Sun Records sampler, and painstakingly hunted down the rest over the years. It's sometimes hard to explain what it is about a particular bluesman that grabs me so hard. This music is certainly lacking the cohesive, almost pop arrangements of the more famous Chicago Blues tunes, and, although it has its origins in Mississippi, it isn't what most think of as "Mississippi blues" with all the acoustic/rural qualities that phrase tends to evoke.

Basically, this is what I think of as "Memphis music." Memphis in the 40s and early 50s was a fascinating hodgepodge of transplanted country bluesmen who were in the process of updating their sound to include electric instruments, particularly guitar and harmonica. Memphis during this time period frequently served as a sort of pit stop in a bluesman's career, a logical training ground to hone one's skills along the inevitable journey from the deep South to Chicago. As such, the music that came out of Memphis then was a good deal wilder, rougher and less sophisticated than much of what was coming out of the larger city to the North.

Houston Boines cut 8 complete tunes. They are crude and disjointed and sloppy, and I love them all. In addition to some fascinating lyrics that were entirely unique to him, there's just something about the quality of this man's voice that ties the haphazard timing and questionable intonation together into something that sounds like it couldn't have been played or recorded any other way.

There's not much known about Houston Boines and there are no existing photos of him. He was born in Hazlehurst, MS, he played harmonica in Eddie Cusic's combo, The Rhythm Aces, he played some with Charley Booker and Jesse "Cleanhead" Love, he roomed with Little Milton in Leland, MS, and, backed by Milton, Ike Turner and others, he recorded these sides in Clarksdale and at Sun Records in Memphis before everyone lost track of him. There were rumors he spent time in Florida, but history catches up with him only once more, on his deathbed in a hospital in Jackson, MS in 1970.


Houston Boines - Clarksdale MS, 1952 and Memphis, TN, 1953