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Henry Thomas


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Big Sandy TX, United States (1874 – 1950s?)

Henry Thomas (1874-1950s?) was a major pre-war country blues singer and musician. Born in Big Sandy, Texas, he began his musical career as an itinerant singer (minstrel), and recorded twenty-three songs from 1927 to 1929. During this time he was a musical hobo who rode the rails across Texas and possibly to the World Fairs in St. Louis and Chicago. Most agree he was the oldest African-American folk artist to produce a significant body of recordings. His projected 1874 birthdate would predate Charley Patton by a good 17 years.

Thomas accompanied himself with the guitar and the quills, a folk instrument made from cane reeds that sound similar to the zampona used by musicians in Peru and Bolivia. Some of his songs are difficult to categorize — they sound more like precursors to blues than the sound we now call “blues.”

Thomas’s best-known influence has been through two songs. “Fishin’ Blues” was covered by Taj Mahal and The Lovin’ Spoonful, and “Bull Doze Blues”, was recorded by Canned Heat as “Going Up The Country”.


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  • Cloudspotter

    Fine music. :)

    3 Jan 8:13pm Reply
  • driftlikeclouds

    Super underrated vocalist... maybe one of the most expressive and interesting voices of the early 20th century.

    23 Oct 2013 Reply
  • Kuggles

    He's so good, harmonicas are overrated, pan flutes are way cooler!

    18 Oct 2011 Reply
  • 2SteppinMonkey

    Gotta pick this one out.

    25 Jan 2011 Reply
  • BillyIdolsHair

    Henry is pretty cool

    20 Mar 2010 Reply
  • kshanti

    I'm grateful for every of those 23 songs he left us. :o)

    16 Jan 2010 Reply
  • phoustsince1991

    I bet your wife catch more fish than you

    29 Dec 2009 Reply

    sphinx...syrinx...sigh...(un soupir)...sighrinx...quills...thanks "Ragtime" for riding those rails and making these sides. Proud to be from your neck of the woods!

    22 Oct 2009 Reply
  • marcelodylan


    23 Jun 2009 Reply
  • redamanita

    Interesting to listen to the provenance for Canned Heat's song; I wonder why Henry Thomas' date of death is only given to the nearest decade?

    5 May 2009 Reply
  • LondonLouis

    Try Bull Doze Blues to see where Canned Heat's Going up Country comes from. Also Fishing Blues can be found in a Taj Mahal version (see Shouts against both of these tracks). Henry may be obscure, but he's left a shadow.

    7 Feb 2009 Reply
  • hikinmike

    We are fortunate that some of this early recording survives.

    4 Feb 2009 Reply
  • Leuchtenburg1

    so nice!

    26 Dec 2008 Reply
  • Vtvvvtvvvtg

    blueeeeees. old blues rules!

    6 Oct 2008 Reply
  • drphibes

    i think i love this music more than just about anything on earth.

    23 Jun 2008 Reply
  • MikkoElo

    good stuff

    28 Mar 2008 Reply
  • Ciacchi

    this is just beautiful

    6 Oct 2007 Reply
  • All 21 shouts

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