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Tampa Red

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Tampa Red (January 8, 1904 - March 19, 1981), born Hudson Woodbridge but known from childhood as Hudson Whittaker, was an influential American musician.

Tampa Red is best known as an accomplished and influential blues guitarist who had a unique single-string bottleneck style. His songwriting and his silky, polished slide technique influenced other leading Chicago blues guitarists, such as Big Bill Broonzy and Robert Nighthawk, as well as Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Mose Allison and many others. In a career spanning over 30 years he also recorded pop, R&B and hokum records.

He was born Hudson Woodbridge in Smithville, Georgia. His parents died when he was a child, and he moved to Tampa, Florida, where he was raised by his aunt and grandmother and adopted their surname, Whittaker. He emulated his older brother, Eddie, who played guitar, and he was especially inspired by an old street musician called Piccolo Pete, who first taught him to play blues licks on a guitar.

In the 1920s, having already perfected his slide technique, he moved to Chicago, Illinois, and began his career as a musician, adopting the name “Tampa Red” from his childhood home and red hair. His big break was being hired to accompany Ma Rainey and he began recording in 1928 with “It’s Tight Like That”, in a bawdy and humorous style that became known as “hokum”. Early recordings were mostly collaborations with Thomas A. Dorsey, known at the time as Georgia Tom. Tampa Red and Georgia Tom recorded almost 90 sides, sometimes as “The Hokum Boys” or, with Frankie Jaxon, as “Tampa Red’s Hokum Jug Band”.

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