Lemon Henry "Blind Lemon" Jefferson (September 24, 1893 – December 19, 1929) was an American blues and gospel singer, songwriter, and musician. He was one of the most popular blues singers of the 1920s and has been called the "Father of the Texas Blues".
Jefferson's performances were distinctive because of his high-pitched voice and the originality of his guitar playing. His recordings sold well, but he was not a strong influence on younger blues singers of his generation, who could not imitate him as easily as they could other commercially successful artists. Later blues and rock and roll musicians, however, did attempt to imitate both his songs and his musical style.
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Links to Peel
Peel was a blues record collector in his youth, so he would certainly have known about Blind Lemon Jefferson, and may well have bought early reissues of the singer's work. He would have learned that during the 1920s, Blind Lemon was based in Dallas and performed in the Deep Elm ("Deep Ellum") district, which the DJ later visited duirng his time in the city, in search of rare records.
Yet according to available listings, Peel didn't play any tracks by Blind Lemon Jefferson until 1985. This may have been because the singer was not rated highly by the blues collectors of the 1960s, who preferred Mississippi country bluesmen to the Texas style of Jefferson. It could also have resulted from the fact that, even by the standards of 1920s blues records, Blind Lemon's were of poor sound quality. He recorded for Paramount Records, a label who attracted some of the best black talent of the era, but whose records were notorious for being poorly recorded and cheaply pressed, making them difficult listening for modern audiences.
This may have changed after Yazoo Records, known for remastering old records to a high quality, issued a collection of Jefferson's work; the first known play of a track by him is from the Yazoo album. Later, Peel twice played one of Jefferson's best-known songs, "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean", which was covered by Bob Dylan on his first LP. JP played the original in 1997 and followed it with Half Man Half Biscuit's parody version, "See That My Bike Is Kept Clean". The singer's "That Black Snake Moan" was played as a Pig's Big 78 in 2002, apparently from an original Paramount record, although it's not known if this was the mint Jefferson 78 sent to Peel by John Fahey as thanks for the DJ serving as his driver during Fahey's visit to Britain in 1969.
Blind Lemon Jefferson also influenced other artists Peel admired, notably Lightnin' Hopkins, who is said to have worked with, and learned from, Jefferson in his youth. It has been suggested that he influenced Jefferson Airplane's choice of name, and he was also the subject of a song ("Blind Lemon Jefferson") by Nick Cave which Peel played in 1988. Another of Blind Lemon's songs, "Matchbox Blues", was covered in later eras by Carl Perkins and the Beatles.
Festive Fifty Entries
Other Shows Played
- 04 June 1985: Shuckin' Sugar Blues (album - King Of The Country Blues) Yazoo
- 11 June 1997: See That My Grave Is Kept Clean
- 18 May 2000: See That My Grave Is Kept Clean (album - King Of The Country Blues) Yazoo
- 11 June 2002: That Black Snake Moan (Pigs Big 78) Paramount