Archive for the ‘Son House’ Category

The Blues House (pt. 1)

November 1, 2014



The Blues House: A Documentary  (Avalon Films)

The Blues House is about the search for two forgotten blues singers, carried out in Mississippi during one of the most violent periods of the civil rights movement.

1964 was a year of transition. The Beatles landed in America. Soul became a fixture on the airwaves. Lyndon Johnson began his War on Poverty and resolved to escalate the fight in Vietnam. And in June, hundreds of college students, eager to join the civil rights movement, traveled to Mississippi, starting what would be known as Freedom Summer.

That same month, two carloads of young men visited the Mississippi Delta. Strangely, neither party was aware of the other, though each had come on the same errand: to find a singer and coax him out of retirement. One group was after Son House, the other Skip James. Thirty years before, House and James had recorded some of the most memorable blues of their era, but now they seemed lost to time.

Finding them would not be easy. There were few clues to their whereabouts, and it was not even known for certain if they were still alive. And Mississippi, that summer, was a tense and dangerous place. With hundreds on their way to teach in freedom schools and work on voter registration, the Ku Klux Klan and police force of many towns–often one and the same entity–vowed that Freedom Summer would not succeed. Churches were bombed, shotguns blasted into cars and homes. And just as the searches for Son House and Skip James were drawing to a close, three people were murdered.

The Blues House follows the music’s unlikely path from the plantations and commissaries of the South to the festival circuit, concert hall and coffeehouse. The film ponders questions of race and identity highly relevant to our own day. And it pays tribute to a pioneering generation of musicians. With a wealth of interviews plus all-new performances by Lucinda Williams, Valerie June, Chris Thomas King, Jimbo Mathus, and more, The Blues House is sure to inspire debate as well as renew appreciation for one of America’s oldest and most vital musical forms: the blues.

Al Wilson and Son House

March 20, 2012

Eddie "Son" House

Thanks to Rebecca Davis, who has published a biography about Al “Blind Owl” Wilson, her website at, and the Wilson family’s tribute to Alan at for the information contained in this post.

When Canned Heat visited 78 collector Joe Bussard (see recent post), one can assume that Al Wilson was one of the band members buying up 78 RPM records from Joe’s basement.  Canned Heat co-founder Al “Blind Owl” Wilson had been a young blues scholar from Cambridge, MA in the early 1960s.  When newly rediscovered bluesman Booker White played a series of Cambridge gigs in 1964, Wilson took the opportunity to interview him. From White, he learned that the seminal 1920s bluesman Son House, teacher to Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, was still alive. Partly as a result of this interview, efforts to eventually locate Son House in Rochester, NY in June of 1964 were successful.

In order to prepare Son House for the college and festival circuit, Al Wilson played guitar with him every day.  The following excerpt is from Rebecca Davis’ article, “Child Is Father to the Man” (Blues Access, Fall 1998).

To learn more about Son House’s rediscovery, and Al Wilson, please check out the fine books below:

“Blind Owl Blues,” by Rebecca Davis (available here)

“Preachin’ the Blues: The Life and Times of Son House,” by Daniel Beaumont (available here)