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 51-67 of 67 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
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  
(Results 51-67 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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