In a sporadic career spanning several decades he worked variously with Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, and John Jackson. His best known tracks included “Saturday Night Hop”, “The Road is Rough and Rocky”, and “I Called My Baby Long Distance”. In the 1950s, his own barber shop attracted blues musicians, who helped to kickstart Edwards’ musical career.
Edwards described his performing as “I play what they call the old Piedmont style, but I call it East Virginia blues ‘cause that’s where I learned it”.
Born on a farm near Union Hall, Virginia, United States, his early work left some time to engage with local musicians, but he had to share his first guitar with his two brothers. Inspired by recordings of Blind Boy Fuller and Blind Lemon Jefferson, he played locally and found employment in a sawmill. In 1937, he relocated to New Jersey, working as a chauffeur and later in an hotel in Columbus, Ohio. Edwards served time in the military police during World War II, but struggled to settle in the post-war years. He eventually found work as a barber, opening his own shop in Washington, D.C. in 1959. It was frequented by Mississippi John Hurt, and the duo formed a loose working relationship with Skip James, which endured several years before his friend Hurt’s death in 1966. After mourning Edwards wrote the song, “The Road is Rough and Rocky”.
Edwards found more regular work at music festivals and in local clubs, and also joined John Jackson, John Cephas and Phil Wiggins, Flora Molton and Mother Scott, and played around Washington billed as the Travelling Blues Workshop.
In 1978, Edwards appeared with the American Folk Blues Festival playing across Europe. L & R Records subsequently released Living Country Blues USA, Vol. 6: The Road Is Rough (1982), and after returning from touring Continental Europe, Edwards teamed up with Eleanor Ellis and Flora Molton. The threesome toured across the United States, Canada and Europe, including Charlie Musselwhite in the entourage in 1987.
Edwards then recorded for Mapleshade Records, releasing Blues ‘n Bones in 1989.
Edwards died in Seat Pleasant, Maryland in June 1998, at the age of 79. His posthumous release, The Toronto Sessions, was based on work he recorded in Canada in 1986.
Edited by midlifefanclub on 4 Sep 2013, 07:43
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