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Eddie James "Son" House, Jr. (March 21, 1902 – October 19, 1988) was an American blues singer and guitarist. House pioneered an innovative style featuring strong, repetitive rhythms, often played with the aid of slide guitar, and his singing often incorporated elements of southern gospel and spiritual music.
House was an important influence on Muddy Waters and also on Robert Johnson. A seminal Delta blues figure, he remains influential today, with his music being covered by blues-rock groups such as The White Stripes.
After killing a man, allegedly in self-defense, he spent time at Parchman Farm in 1928 and 1929. The official story on the killing is that sometime around 1927 or 1928, he was playing in a juke joint when a man went on a shooting spree. Son was wounded in the leg, and shot the man dead. He received a 15-year sentence at Parchman Farm prison.
Son House recorded for Paramount Records in 1930 and for Alan Lomax
from the Library of Congress in 1941 and 1942. He then faded from public
view until the country blues revival in the 1960s when, after a long
search of the Mississippi Delta region by Nick Perls, Dick Waterman and
Phil Spiro, he was "re-discovered" in June 1964 in Rochester, New York,
where he had lived since 1943; House had been retired from the music
business for many years, working for the New York Central Railroad, and
was completely unaware of the international revival of enthusiasm for
his early recordings. He subsequently toured extensively in the US and
Europe and recorded for CBS records. Like Mississippi John Hurt he was
welcomed into the music scene of the 1960s and played at Newport Folk
Festival in 1964, the New York Folk Festival in July 1965, and the
October 1967 European tour of the American Folk Festival along with Skip
James and Bukka White. Son House can be seen in the documentary "The
Howling Wolf Story". House and Wolf had been close early in Wolf's
career. However, in the documentary, when Wolf was performing a show
during the 60's, House was drunk and making a lot of noise during Wolf's
set. This angered Wolf who started telling House, from the stage, that
all he cared about was whiskey and that he had had a chance to do
something with his life but threw it away, to paraphrase Wolf. The young
Alan Wilson ("Canned Heat") was one of Son House` biggest fans. The
Producer Hammond sr. asked
Alan Wilson, who was just 22 years old, to
teach "Son House how to play like son house", because
Alan Wilson had
such a good knowledge of the blues styles. So the Album "The Father of
Delta Blues - The Complete 1965 Sessions" was the result." Son House
played with Alan Wilson live. It can be heard: the Album "John - the
Revelator: The 1970 London Sessions".
Ill health plagued his later years and in 1974 he retired once again,
and later moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he remained until his death
from cancer of the larynx. He was buried at the Mt. Hazel Cemetery.
Members of the Detroit Blues Society raised money through benefit
concerts to put a fitting monument on his grave. He had been married
More recently, House's music has influenced blues-rock groups such as the White Stripes, who covered his song "Death Letter" (also reworked by Skip James and Robert Johnson) on their album De Stijl, and later performed it at the 2004 Grammy Awards. The White Stripes also incorporated sections of a traditional song Son House recorded - "John the Revelator" - into the song "Cannon" from their eponymous debut album The White Stripes. Jack White of the White Stripes has cited his a cappella songs, like "Grinning in Your Face", as a large influence.
Another musician deeply influenced by Son House is the slide player John Mooney, who in his teens learned slide guitar from Son House while Son was living in Rochester, New York. Several of House's songs were recently featured in the motion picture soundtrack of "Black Snake Moan" (2006).