Blind Willie McTell

Blind Willie McTell (born William Samuel McTier; May 5, 1898 – August 19, 1959) was a Piedmont blues and ragtime singer and guitarist. He played with a fluid, syncopated fingerstyle guitar technique, common among many exponents of Piedmont blues. Unlike his contemporaries, he came to use twelve-string guitars exclusively. McTell was also an adept slide guitarist, unusual among ragtime bluesmen. His vocal style, a smooth and often laid-back tenor, differed greatly from many of the harsher voices of Delta bluesmen such as Charley Patton. McTell performed in various musical styles, including blues, ragtime, religious music and hokum.

McTell was born in Thomson, Georgia. He learned to play the guitar in his early teens. He soon became a street performer in several Georgia cities, including Atlanta and Augusta, and first recorded in 1927 for Victor Records. He never produced a major hit record, but he had a prolific recording career with different labels and under different names in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1940, he was recorded by the folklorist John A. Lomax and Ruby Terrill Lomax for the folk song archive of the Library of Congress. He was active in the 1940s and 1950s, playing on the streets of Atlanta, often with his longtime associate Curley Weaver. Twice more he recorded professionally. His last recordings originated during an impromptu session recorded by an Atlanta record store owner in 1956. McTell died three years later, having suffered for years from diabetes and alcoholism. Despite his lack of commercial success, he was one of the few blues musicians of his generation who continued to actively play and record during the 1940s and 1950s. He did not live to see the American folk music revival, in which many other bluesmen were "rediscovered".

McTell's influence extended over a wide variety of artists, including the Allman Brothers Band, who covered his "Statesboro Blues", and Bob Dylan, who paid tribute to him in his 1983 song "Blind Willie McTell", the refrain of which is "And I know no one can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell". Other artists influenced by McTell include Taj Mahal, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Ralph McTell, Chris Smither, Jack White, and the White Stripes.

Birth and Death Data: Born May 5th, 1898 (Georgia), Died August 19th, 1959 (Georgia)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1927 - 1935

Roles Represented in DAHR: guitar, vocalist, composer, lyricist, kazoo, songwriter

Recordings

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor BVE-40308 10-in. 10/18/1927 Writing paper blues Blind Willie McTell Male vocal solo, with guitar (self-accompaniment) vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer  
Victor BVE-40309 10-in. 10/18/1927 Stole rider blues Blind Willie McTell Male vocal solo, with guitar (self-accompaniment) vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer  
Victor BVE-40310 10-in. 10/18/1927 Mamma, tain't long fo' day Blind Willie McTell Male vocal solo, with guitar (self-accompaniment) vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer  
Victor BVE-40311 10-in. 10/18/1927 Mr. McTell got the blues Blind Willie McTell Male vocal solo, with guitar (self-accompaniment) vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer  
Victor BVE-47185 10-in. 10/17/1928 Three women blues Blind Willie McTell Male vocal solo, with guitar vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer  
Victor BVE-47186 10-in. 10/17/1928 Dark night blues Blind Willie McTell Male vocal solo, with guitar vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer  
Victor BVE-47187 10-in. 10/17/1928 Statesboro blues Blind Willie McTell Male vocal solo, with guitar vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer  
Victor BVE-47188 10-in. 10/17/1928 Loving talking blues Blind Willie McTell Male vocal solo, with guitar vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer  
Victor BVE-56596 10-in. 11/26/1929 Tucaloosa Blue Front Harris and Harris Female-male vocal duet, with clarinet, banjo, and guitar instrumentalist, guitar  
Victor BVE-56597 10-in. 11/26/1929 Teasing brown Harris and Harris Male vocal solo, with dialogue and instrumental trio instrumentalist, guitar  
Victor BVE-56598 10-in. 11/26/1929 Death room blues Blind Willie McTell Male vocal solo, with guitar (self-accompaniment) vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer, lyricist  
Victor BVE-56599 10-in. 11/26/1929 Drive away blues Blind Willie McTell Male vocal solo, with guitar (self-accompaniment) vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer, lyricist  
Victor BVE-56600 10-in. 11/26/1929 Hard driving momma Blind Willie McTell Male vocal solo, with guitar (self-accompaniment) vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer, lyricist  
Victor BVE-56609 10-in. 11/27/1929 Get back blues Harris and Harris Female-male vocal duet, with guitar and kazoo instrumentalist, guitar, kazoo  
Victor BVE-56610 10-in. 11/27/1929 This is not the stove to brown your bread Harris and Harris ; Blind Willie McTell Female-male vocal duet, with guitar and kazoo instrumentalist, guitar, kazoo  
Victor BVE-56611 10-in. 11/27/1929 What do I care Harris and Harris Female-male vocal duet, with guitar and kazoo instrumentalist, kazoo, guitar  
Victor BVE-56612 10-in. 11/27/1929 Learning something blues Alfoncy Harris Male vocal solo, with guitar and kazoo instrumentalist, kazoo, guitar  
Victor BVE-56631 10-in. 11/29/1929 Blue sea blues Blind Willie McTell Male vocal solo, with guitar (self-accompaniment) vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer, lyricist  
Victor BVE-56632 10-in. 11/29/1929 South Georgia bound blues Blind Willie McTell Male vocal solo, with guitar (self-accompaniment) vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer, lyricist  
Victor BVE-56633 10-in. 11/29/1929 Mr. McTell's sorrowful moan Blind Willie McTell Male vocal solo, with guitar (self-accompaniment) vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer, lyricist  
Victor BVE-56634 10-in. 11/29/1929 Weary hearted blues Blind Willie McTell Male vocal solo, with guitar (self-accompaniment) vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer, lyricist  
Victor BVE-56635 10-in. 11/29/1929 Love changing blues Blind Willie McTell Male vocal solo, with guitar (self-accompaniment) vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer, lyricist  
Victor BVE-71603 10-in. 2/22/1932 Rollin' mama blues Ruby Glaze ; Hot Shot Willie Mixed vocal duet, with 2 guitars vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, songwriter  
Victor BVE-71604 10-in. 2/22/1932 Lonesome day blues Ruby Glaze ; Hot Shot Willie Mixed vocal duet, with 2 guitars vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, songwriter  
Victor BVE-71605 10-in. 2/22/1932 Let me scoop for you Ruby Glaze ; Hot Shot Willie Mixed vocal duet, with 2 guitars vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer, lyricist  
Victor BVE-71606 10-in. 2/22/1932 Searching the desert for the blues Ruby Glaze ; Hot Shot Willie Mixed vocal duet, with 2 guitars vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer, lyricist  
Columbia W149299 10-in. 10/30/1929 Atlanta strut Blind Sammie Male vocal solo ("blues singer"), with guitar vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Columbia W149300 10-in. 10/30/1929 Travelin' blues Blind Sammie Male vocal solo ("blues singer"), with guitar vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Columbia W149301 10-in. 10/30/1929 Cigarette blues Blind Sammie Male vocal solo ("blues singer"), with guitar vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Columbia W149302 10-in. 10/30/1929 Come on around to my house mama Blind Sammie Male vocal solo ("blues singer"), with guitar vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Columbia W149318 10-in. 10/31/1929 Real jazz mama Blind Sammie Male vocal solo ("blues singer"), with guitar vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Columbia W149319 10-in. 10/31/1929 Kind mama Blind Sammie Male vocal solo ("blues singer"), with guitar vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Columbia W150257 10-in. 4/17/1930 Talking to myself Blind Sammie Male vocal solo ("blues singer"), with guitar vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Columbia W150258 10-in. 4/17/1930 Razor Ball Blind Sammie Male vocal solo ("blues singer"), with guitar vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Columbia W151904 10-in. 10/23/1931 Southern can is mine Blind Sammie Male vocal solo, with guitar vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer, lyricist  
Columbia W151905 10-in. 10/23/1931 Broke down engine blues Blind Sammie Male vocal solo ("blues singer"), with guitar vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer, lyricist  
Columbia W151906 10-in. 10/23/1931 Experience blues Ruth Day Female vocal solo ("blues singer"), with guitar instrumentalist, guitar  
Columbia W151907 10-in. 10/23/1931 Painful blues Ruth Day Female vocal solo ("blues singer"), with guitar instrumentalist, guitar  
OKeh W405002 10-in. 10/23/1931 Stomp down rider Georgia Bill Male vocal solo, with guitar vocalist, composer, instrumentalist, guitar  
OKeh W405003 10-in. 10/23/1931 Scarey day blues Georgia Bill Male vocal solo, with guitar vocalist, composer, instrumentalist, guitar  
OKeh W405004 10-in. 10/23/1931 Rough alley blues Mary Willis Female vocal solo, with guitar instrumentalist, guitar  
OKeh W405005 10-in. 10/23/1931 Talkin' to you wimmin' about the blues Mary Willis Female vocal solo, with guitar instrumentalist, guitar  
OKeh W405084 10-in. 10/31/1931 Low riders blues Georgia Bill Male vocal solo, with guitar vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer, lyricist  
OKeh W405085 10-in. 10/31/1931 Georgia rag Georgia Bill Male vocal solo, with guitar vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar, composer, lyricist  
OKeh W405086 10-in. 10/31/1931 Low down blues Mary Willis Female vocal solo, with guitar instrumentalist, guitar  
OKeh W405087 10-in. 10/31/1931 Merciful blues Mary Willis Female vocal solo, with guitar instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9934 10-in. 4/23/1935 Ain't it grand to be a Christian Blind Willie McTell vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9935 10-in. 4/23/1935 We got to meet death one day Blind Willie McTell vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9936 10-in. 4/23/1935 Don't let nobody turn you 'round Blind Willie McTell vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9937 10-in. 4/23/1935 I got religion, I'm so glad Blind Willie McTell vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9938 10-in. 4/23/1935 Tricks ain't walking no more-1 Curley Weaver instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9940 10-in. 4/23/1935 Oh lawdy Mama-1 Curley Weaver instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9941 10-in. 4/23/1935 Two faced woman-1 Curley Weaver instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9942 10-in. 4/23/1935 Early morning blues-1 Curley Weaver instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9943 10-in. 4/23/1935 Fried pie blues-1 Curley Weaver instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9944 10-in. 4/23/1935 Dying gambler-1 Blind Willie McTell vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9945 10-in. 4/23/1935 God don't like it-1 Blind Willie McTell vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9946 10-in. 4/23/1935 Bell Street blues-2 Blind Willie McTell vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9947 10-in. 4/23/1935 Let me play with your yo-yo Blind Willie McTell vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9952 10-in. 4/25/1935 Lay some flowers on my grave Blind Willie McTell vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9953 10-in. 4/25/1935 Death room blues Blind Willie McTell vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9954 10-in. 4/25/1935 Ticket agent blues-2 Blind Willie McTell vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9955 10-in. 4/25/1935 Dying doubter blues Blind Willie McTell vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9956 10-in. 4/25/1935 Cold Winter day-1 Blind Willie McTell vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9957 10-in. 4/25/1935 Your time to worry Blind Willie McTell vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9958 10-in. 4/25/1935 Cooling board blues-1 Blind Willie McTell vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca C 9959 10-in. 4/25/1935 Hillbilly Willie's blues Blind Willie McTell vocalist, instrumentalist, guitar  

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "McTell, Blind Willie," accessed March 3, 2021, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/103817.

McTell, Blind Willie. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved March 3, 2021, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/103817.

"McTell, Blind Willie." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 3 March 2021.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/103817

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