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Charlie Musselwhite

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Biography

Musselwhite was born in the rural hill country of Mississippi. He has said that he is of Choctaw descent, and he was born in a region originally inhabited by the Choctaw. However, in a 2005 interview, he said his mother had told him he was actually Cherokee.

His family considered it normal to play music, with his father playing guitar and harmonica, his mother playing piano, and a relative who was a one-man band. At the age of three, Musselwhite moved to Memphis, Tennessee. When he was a teenager, Memphis experienced the period when rockabilly, western swing, electric blues, and some forms of African American music were combining to give birth to rock and roll. The period featured legendary figures such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash, as well as minor legends such as Gus Cannon, Furry Lewis, Will Shade, Royal Bell, Memphis Willie B., Johnny Burnette, Red Roby, Abe McNeal, and Slim Rhodes. Musselwhite supported himself by digging ditches, laying concrete and running moonshine in a 1950 Lincoln. This environment was Musselwhite’s school for music as well as life, and he acquired the nickname “Memphis Charlie.”
In true bluesman fashion, Musselwhite then took off in search of the rumored “big-paying factory jobs” up the “Hillbilly Highway”, legendary Highway 61 to Chicago, where he continued his education on the South Side, making the acquaintance of even more legends including Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Sonny Boy Williamson, Buddy Guy, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, and Big Walter Horton.

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