Blind Blake

Blind Blake is an American icon. Blake was not only one of the most influential blues guitarists ever, but he also seems to be the original developer of finger-style ragtime for the guitar, which is the six-string equivalent of playing ragtime at the piano. Blake was so proficient at this form that very few guitarists have managed to match his remarkable achievements. Blind Blake was the Paramount Records’ most popular blues guitarist. Paramount even waxed him every chance they had, since he was their top-selling artist. Blake had already recorded a remarkable 79 sides under his own name by the time Paramount Records folded in fall 1932. He also contributed accompaniments to Paramount recordings made by artists like Irene Scruggs and Ma Rainey, to name a few. Given Blake’s celebrity status, fame, and large recorded output, one would expect that we would have some knowledge about him. After more than 50 years of research by experts for Blind Blake, we still haven’t found any verifiable information about Blake that he hasn’t shared with us. The only thing that is known about Blind Blake is conjecture, rumors, slander, and nonsense. One theory suggested that Blind Blake’s real name was Arthur Phelps. Blake’s entry in Sheldon Harris’ Blues Who’s Who is filed under this name. Blake, however, disproves the theory. He states that Blake is his real name on “Blind Arthur’s Breakdown”, a 1929 recording. He briefly mastered Geechee dialect in “Southern Rag” and this led to the theory that Blake was born in Georgia Sea Islands and used Geechee as his first language. This would explain Blake’s “uncomfortable Negro dialect” on records such as “Early Morning Blues”. This absurd notion was easily disproved because there’s nothing wrong with Blakes “negro language.” Blind Blake was most likely raised in Jacksonville, Florida. Blake was first seen in Chicago during the mid-1920s. As the only photo of Blind Blake taken in August 1926 at his first Paramount session, it is clear that he was about thirty-eight years old. Interviews with Blake’s musicians reveal that he was a man with an inexhaustible appetite. Blind Blake disappeared in June 1932, after his last Paramount session. No reliable information has been found. After extensive searches of the local police files, it was discovered that the story that Blake had been murdered in Chicago just after his Paramount date didn’t hold. Blind Blake may have died in Jacksonville, according to the most plausible theory. Mary Elizabeth Barnicle, a member of the Archive of Folk Song, led a search for black musicians in the area where Blake may have settled. Blind Blake’s recordings are considered classic early blues performances. It is too numerous to list here. Some of the most memorable are “Early Morning Blues”, “Too Tight”, “Skeedle Loo Doo Blues”, “That Will Never Happen No More,” and “Southern Rag.” Blind Blake wrote many of his original songs that are now considered country-blues standards. Judging by the developments in Atlanta-based Piedmont Blues, it is clear that Blake had a significant influence, even though it was only through recordings. Blind Blake’s sincerity, gentle humor, and effortless approach to finger-work that is complex, can be hard for anyone not to be amazed by. Blind Blake should not be confused with Blake Higgs from the Bahamian Calypso who recorded under the name “Blind Blake”. Allmusic

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