Just Like Jesse James Sweet Home Chicago Sad and Lonesome Blues Like Showers of Rain Long Tall Woman Blues Don't Say I Don't Love You Don't You Lie to Me
Who May Your Regular Be I've Been Around Crawling Kingsnake White Windows Back To The Roots Delta Bluesman The World Don't Owe Me Nothin'
The World Don't Owe Me Nothin'
Photo of Honeyboy Edwards with legendary English folk singer "Bungay Roger" Harris, taken on his European tour.
Biography of David "Honeyboy" Edwards by Timothy Davis
The Mississippi Writers and Musicians Project of StarkvilleHigh School
David "Honeyboy" Edwards is one of the few remaining original practitioners of the acoustic Delta blues style (Santelli 135). As a guitarist and country blues singer, David "Honeyboy" Edwards has been playing" traditional and unadulterated Mississippi Delta blues" since he left his home in Shaw, Mississippi, at the age of fourteen. "Though Edwards took up electric blues in the 1960's and has since worked on occasion with a band, he still performs authentic solo acoustic country blues and is living testament of the music's vitality" (Santelli 135). The New York Times calls Edwards one of "the last authentic performers in blues idiom that developed in central Mississippi during the second and third decades of the century," and Rolling Stone is saying " ...he shows that you don't always need a band to move people's feet (www.mudcat.com)."
David "Honeyboy" Edwards was born June 28, 1915, in Shaw, Mississippi. There he taught himself how to play the guitar by listening to area blues men like Tommy McClennan and Robert Petway. By the age of fourteen, he was playing Delta juke joints and picnics with Big Joe Williams (Santelli 135). After learning the ropes during the years with Williams, he went out on his own and made associations with some of his contemporaries, the bluesmen of the South during the 1930's and 1940's. He played with people like McClennan, Robert Johnson, Big Walter Horton, and Yank Rachell, and he traveled all over the South with them (Santelli 135).
Folklorist Alan Lomax caught Honeyboy on tape while doing field recording for the Library of Congress in 1942 (www.blue heaven.com). The session had to be halted at one point because of a powerful storm that blackened the delta sky and soaked the parched land (www.blue heaven.com). In all, fifteen sides of Honeyboy's singing were recorded by Lomax. Edwards didn't record commercially until he got to Houston in 1951 and cut Who MayYour Regular Be for Arc Records (www.blue heaven.com). Then Honeyboy recorded his hit song, Drop Down Mama, in 1953.
Although he made few recordings during his traveling years, David "Honeyboy" Edwards eventually settled in Chicago in the mid-50's and has made a number of fine traditional recordings with various labels (www.Blues University: David "Honeyboy" Edwards.com). He also played small clubs and streetcorners with artists such as Johnny Temple, Floyd Jones, and Kansas City Red. In the mid-'60s he resumed his recording career with the Adelphi/Blue Horizon label and began to play some festivals. He toured Europe and Japan mainly during the 70s and 80s and performed at the Smithsonian's Festival of American Folklife, the Chicago Blues Festival, and the San Francisco Blues Festival (Santelli 135). He currently records for the Chicago-based Earwig label. In 1992, they released his album, Delta Bluesman(Santelli 136). This work includes Honeyboy's original Library of Congress recordings and his songs of the 1940's (Santelli 136). Honeyboy still performs widely despite his age of 84. In 1998 he published his autobiography,The World Don't Owe Me Nothin'and has an album with the same name.
Timeline of David "Honeyboy" Edwards
1915 - Born in Shaw, Mississippi, on June 28.
1932 - Traveled a year with Big Joe Williams when he was just seventeen.
1942 - Folklorist Alan Lomax caught Honeyboy on tape while doing field recording for the Library of Congress.
1951 - Honeyboy started recording commercially in Houston, Texas for Arc Records.
1953 - Performed a fine slide guitar performance on Drop Down Mama.
1954 - Honeyboy settled in Chicago.
1960's - 1970's - Honeyboy played small streetcorners and clubs with some famous bluesmen. He had a new release with Big Walter Horton and guitarist Eddie Ell in the early 70's.
1998 - Honeyboy's autobiography, The World Don't Owe Me Nothin' was published.
Honeyboy Edwards remembers Maxwell Street in a few quotes from the recent book: The World Don't Owe Me Nothing: The Life and Times of Delta Bluesman Honeyboy Edwards by David Honeyboy Edwards as told to Janis Martinson and Michael Robert Frank.
"Blue Heaven: David Honeyboy Edwards." [online] Availiable http://www.musicblvd.com, April 4, 1999.
"BluesUniversity: David Honeyboy Edwards." [online] Available http"//www.bluesu.com/BluesU_Honeyboy_Edwards.html, April 4, 1999.
Cox, James L. David "Honeyboy" Edwards. Mississippi Almanac 97-98 : The Ultimate Reference on the State. Yazoo City, MS : Computer Search and Research, 1997. 124.
Santelli, Robert. David "Honeyboy" Edwards. The Big Book of Blues. New York, New York; Penguin Books, 1993.135-136.
Honeyboy Edwards Remembers Maxwell Street
a few quotes from the recent book: The World Don't Owe Me Nothing: The Life and Times of Delta Bluesman Honeyboy Edwards by David Honeyboy Edwards as told to Janis Martinson and Michael Robert Frank. Chicago Review Press,1997. This book is recommended reading for those interested in the history of Chicago Blues. There is a lot about Maxwell Street in this book.
In '45, me and Walter come to Chicago. We had heard all about Maxwell Street - they called it Jewtown, too - and we wanted to go there because that was where the happening was. Musicians come to Chicago from everywhere then just to play on Maxwell Street. Because they could make a living there.
We got in to Chicago about that night. We got off that train and come straight down Halsted and over to Maxwell Street. Maxwell Street was all the time wide open and really crowded. At that time all the steel mills and slaughterhouses, packing houses was wide open. Everybody was working two or three shifts, people was working the graveyard shifts. There was always people out on the streets, the street was full of people of all kinds, blacks, whites, Mexicans, Jews. Lots of people had come up from the South to get a job in Chicago.
And about in the morning I heard all these musicians playing in the streets. Floyd Jones was out there, Jimmy Rogers, all them was playing in the streets. Jimmy Rogers had a girl with a little baby, he had just come out of the army. He was wearing a suit and a high straw top hat. Snooky Pryor was there. And Tampa Red, not the original Tampa Red, another guy called Tampa Red, tall, yellow, walked kind of bowlegged. Had a real heavy voice and played in Vastopol. And old Stovepipe who used to play the harp. Stovepipe was a old-time minstrel show musicianer; he played ragtime stuff. Pork Chop, playing the washtub bass in the street; One-Leg Sam Norwood playing guitar, who used to play with Tommy Johnson; John Henry Barbee was out there trying to throw tricks; a fellow playing banjo called Fat - they was all playing on the corners. Some of them was down by the hot dog stands And there was so many people in Jewtown you couldn't walk the streets.
We had the biggest crowd around us, with people chunking quarters and dollars at us. Money was floating then. On Maxwell Street, who could play the best, that's what got the best crowd. And the best sound, that's what got the best crowd. They would stop by, but if it wasn't sounding good they would go to the next.
Walter was playing his song, "Hey, baby, don't you want a man like me." That boy could play a harp. He was like Big Walter but had a better style, a sound and a style. Now, Big Walter could play more harp than Little Walter but Little Walter had a cooked, solid sound. Big Walter could get more notes, he knew more flashy notes, he knew more keys, but Little Walter had the best sound because he had a dead sound. Just a little something can make a big difference in harp playing.
From the inside cover: In the thirties, Honeyboy was playing in HandyPark on Beale Street during the seminal era of Memphis's music scene. Eventually the blues let him to Texas, to Deep Ellum in Dallas and to Houston, where he and the blues took a new sound. In the late forties he brought a teenaged Little Walter to Chicago and together they played on Maxwell Street. Eventually, Honeyboy made Chicago his home, as did the blues we know today.
DAVID "HONEYBOY" EDWARDS Blues guitarist/singer, Chicago, IL
David Edwards was born in Shaw, Mississippi in 1915. He first learned music from his father, Henry Edwards, a guitar player and violinist for country dances. As a teenager, he started touring with Big Joe Williams, and over the course of the next few years he crossed paths with the patriarchs of the Delta blues, including Robert Johnson, Tommy McClennan, Charley Patton, and Tommy Johnson. In 1942, Alan Lomax recorded 15 of Edwards' stories and songs for the Archive of Folk Song at the Library of Congress. By 1953, Edwards had moved to Chicago, where he quickly became part of the fertile urban blues scene, recording a minor classic Drop Down Mama for the Chess label. Since the 1960s, Edwards has toured widely, working with such artists as Walter Horton, Sonny Boy Williamson, Sunnyland Slim, Howlin' Wolf, and even Fleetwood Mac. In a review of a 1976 concert, New York Times critic Robert Palmer wrote that Edwards' performance was mesmerizing. "He sang in a strong, keening voice, and accompanied himself with dazzling guitar runs and a buoyant steady rhythm...the music had the audience of devotees in a state bordering on ecstasy." The blues can be understood as a cumulative art form in which the artists build their styles and repertoires based on their experiences and on what they have learned from other musicians. Honeyboy Edwards is a monumental figure in that rich, cultural history and a living link with the birth of the blues.
An Interview with David HONEYBOY Edwards for the 2002 National Heritage Fellowships
DAVID "HONEYBOY" EDWARDS Blues guitarist/singer, Chicago, IL Interview by Mary K. Lee
Q: Congratulations on your award. What your reaction when you heard the news?
Edwards: Well I was glad and I appreciate it very much.
Q: Did you have friends and family that you were able to share it with?
Edwards: Yeah I got two daughters here. One wants to come with me to D.C.
Q: Tell me about growing up in Mississippi and learning how to play guitar and blues music.
Edwards: I was about eight or nine years old when I started to play. My daddy played the guitar and violin. Every time he put his guitar down I'd pick it up. I kept picking around with it and he started to show me how to play. I played in the country dances and different things down by GreenwoodShaw, Mississippi in the Delta. When I got to be seventeen years old I was good enough to go on the road with Big Joe Williams. I was out on a tour with Big Joe from Greenwood to New Orleans. When I left him and went back home to the country, my sisters and them were standing around me and listening like they never heard nobody play before. They said, "Honey can play now."
Q: When Alan Lomax recorded you, what was that experience like?
Edwards: He recorded me in 1942 on a Monday in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He drove up to the house in a brand new '42 Hudson and I was there with my auntie. She had never seen no white folk with a big car like that, in '42. She said, "That man has a big car."
He asked her, "David Edwards lived here?"
She said, "I don't know. He stays here sometime." But she's scared to tell him yeah.
He said, "Well I just want him to do some recording. I want him to make records for me and everything. I'm from Washington. D.C., from the Library of Congress and I want him to record for me."
She then said, "Let me see if he's around here anywhere." She said, "There's a man out there in a big car."
And I said, "That's the one I've been saying I expected. Tell him I'm here."
She said, "Yeah, he's in here asleep. He'll be out in a few minutes though."
I got up, put on my clothes and went out to the car. We went to Clarksdale, Mississippi on highways 49 and 61. I rented a room in a house there and he rented a place in a school for the recording. We started recording about eleven, but a storm came up around a little before twelve and broke up the recording. We had to stop mid-way in the recording. Came up like a tornado. We stopped for about an hour and when it blew over we started the recording again and got through the session. He gave me twenty dollars and that was more money than I had in a long time. At that time that was a lot of money.
He'd recorded Muddy Waters and Son House the same week before he got to me. He was getting most of the black blues that he could find down through there then.
Q: When do you think the blues was the most popular?
Edwards: Most popular? Well the guitars, I'll tell you what, the guitars got real popular back in the late forties because they had started to make amplifiers to hook them up to. That gave the guitar player more push to get jobs. People could sit down and stand off and listen to what you were doing. Before that the piano player was starving the guitar player to death because the piano was made loud. They are really loud and you don't need nothing, no mikes to hook up to a piano. You could hear that two blocks down the street without it hooked up to anything. And with a guitar you had to be like two or three playing together, a violin, a guitar, probably a mandolin and drum thing, good they got hooked up with electricity. That's where you played in with four or five together they could hear you, make a lot of noise together.
But right now you could take a trio band playing with the good electric amplifiers and with people that can play good, and you could hold a crowd as good as you could with seven or eight pieces.
Q: When you're teaching students, what advice do you give them?
Edwards: What advice? I tell them if you're playing the blues - or whatever you're playing - to keep it up. It might pay off some day. If you like doing it, keep doing it. Don't ever quit.
When I was young I'd be walking sometime down the highway with my guitar on my back and people would be picking cotton beside the highway and say, "Boy you better take that guitar off your shoulder, you're going to starve to death, you get yourself one of these sacks now." I didn't pay them no attention. I just kept on a going because I liked my music.
I get to the town and that evening, when the field workers came back to town - the trucks would carry them out to the country to work on the farms and they'd bring them back into town in the evening - they'd get off the truck and drink whiskey and beer, you know. When they'd get there, I'd be playing on the street. They'd say, "Didn't I see you walking down the highway?" I said, "I come down that away." A man says, "I didn't know you were that good. I just thought you were somebody walking with a guitar." He'd be the first one that gave me a quarter. So people don't never know what you can do.
Q: Do you think the students face any challenges continuing the tradition, the blues music?
Edwards: Well I'm telling you, blues music it's not going to go. I don't care how much rock-n-roll and how much rap you got, there's always going to be somebody playing the blues. The blues is a truthful thing. Blues is just like a story. It's like you're going to school. Blues is not going to go nowhere. It may slow down but it ain't going no where. We got too many young blues players playing the blues now,, twenty-five and thirty years old playing the blues and they're not going to quit.
Q: Now can you tell me what blues music has meant to you?
Edwards: Well, in the later years blues music has done a lot to me and lots for me. I've been everywhere I've wanted to go playing the blues. I've been in China. I've been in Tokyo, Japan. I've been in Germany. I just left Germany three weeks ago. I've been in Finland. I don't know how many places I've been in Switzerland, Sweden, I've been all over there. I've been in Ireland, Belfast and Dublin. So I've been everywhere. I've been all over the world playing the blues.
Q: I just had one final question. I was hoping you could tell me what you're looking forward to at the awards ceremony in DC?
Edwards: I got five guitars but I don't know what to bring. I got a straight, electric, I don't know what to bring.
Q: What are you looking forward to the most?
Edwards: Well I'm looking forward to doing the best I can and enjoying it. That's the best.