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 (Results 26-50 of 67 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
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  
(Results 26-50 of 67 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "McTell, Blind Willie," accessed March 7, 2021, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/103817.

McTell, Blind Willie. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved March 7, 2021, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/103817.

"McTell, Blind Willie." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 7 March 2021.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

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

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