Biography

Freddie Spruell (December 28, 1893 – June 19, 1956) was an American Delta blues guitarist and singer.

He was variously billed as Papa Freddie or Mr. Freddie, and he is generally regarded as the first Delta bluesman to be recorded (“Milk Cow Blues”, 1926). However, both Mamie Smith (1920) and Blind Lemon Jefferson (1925), pre-dated him in waxing the first ‘blues’ records. Details of his life are sketchy and sometimes contradictory.

Spruell was probably born in Lake Providence, Louisiana, United States, but relocated with his family to Chicago, Illinois, as a small child. His Social Security records gave his birth date as December 1893. His recordings, although classed as Delta blues, were noted for reasons of his musical styling, rather than any geographical accuracy regarding his long-time place of residence.

On June 25, 1926, Spruell cut “Milk Cow Blues” in Chicago. The track was released by Okeh Records, alongside “Muddy Water Blues” which was recorded in November that year, both sides using the Papa Freddie name. His second single release included “Way Back Down Home” and the same “Muddy Water Blues” track. He recorded two more songs in 1928, one of which was “Tom Cat Blues”, and were issued by Paramount Records as by Mr. Freddie Spruell. Five further songs were recorded in April 1935, and released under the shorter Mr. Freddie name on the Bluebird Records label. This latter recording session saw him cut “Let’s Go Riding”, his best known number. Carl Martin played second guitar behind Spruell, on the track.

At the insistence of his own mother, Spruell’s playing of secular music ended in the mid-1940s, and he became a Baptist preacher.

Spruell died in Chicago in June 1956, after a lengthy stay in hospital. He was aged 62. However, no death certificate has yet been uncovered.

All his recorded work was included in the compilation album, Mississippi Blues: Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 2 (1926-1935).

Edited by hvk on 3 Feb 2012, 10:43

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