David “Honeyboy” Edwards 28 June, 1915 – 29 August, 2011
Honeyboy Edwards was born in Shaw, Mississippi and began playing the guitar locally – he was something of a Zelig in the blues world! He knew and played with folks such as Charlie Patton, Tommy Johnson, Big Joe Williams, and Robert Johnson. It is reported that he was there when Johnson was poisoned by a jealous husband in MS in the late thirties. His recording career began like that of Muddy Waters; he cut for The U.S. Library of Congress’s Alan Lomax in 1942. After that it was sparse. His first commercial sides were for Arc Records in TX in 1951, followed by a session or two for Sun Records, and a later one for Chess Records in 1953. None of the Sun or Chess material was released at the time. Some tunes were recorded by Pete Welding (Testament Records), and Gene Rosenthal (Adelphi Records) in the sixties and seventies, but his first full-length LP came from my TRIX label in 1978, culled from a wealth of material I recorded by him in Chicago between 1974 and 1977. After that, things opened up for him, and not just in the world of recordings – much is due to the efforts of Michael Frank (Earwig Records).
He therefore mainly had a successful late-life career! His 1997 autobiography, THE WORLD DON’T OWE ME NOTHIN’ (Chicago Review Press), is a well-compiled tome (by Frank) that all of you should read: His memory was sharp and seemingly accurate. In the 21st Century, honors began to come his way. In 2002 he received a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship Award; 2005 saw him get the Acoustic Blues Artist Handy Award; 2008 was his Grammy shared with Robert Lockwood, Henry Townsend, and Pinetop Perkins for “Last of the Mississippi Delta Blues Men”, while he received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2010. Not bad for a guy by then in his nineties!
Edwards was a gentleman at all times; he was a decent singer and a fine guitarist (even in his last years) with a repertoire that took in originals, along with standards from his home state and his latter-day Chicago locale. Not to denigrate his efforts one iota, he was a journeyman, one who was the storied peripatetic bluesman going from town to town during the 30s, 40s, 50s, and into the 60s. Capable of playing either solo or with a small band (check out the releases on Earwig Records), Honeyboy epitomized a kind of relatively early Mississippi blues and was a real connector with much of the music’s past. There are few of the “oldies” left these days (Louisiana Red being one) whose stories are part and parcel of the story of the music. He was fortunate to have such a long career… the luck of the draw! A true winner in the crap-shoot of life, Honeyboy Edwards deserved all that came his way before his death. He was a good man who will be missed by all who knew him, myself included.
PETER B. LOWRY
pub: THE BLUES TIMES; Nov 2011 – issue # 224, p.6.