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Washboard Sam

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Biography

Robert Brown (b 15 July 1910, Walnut Ridge, Arkansas – d 6 November 1966, Chicago), known professionally as Washboard Sam, was an American singer and musician.

Reputedly the half-brother of Big Bill Broonzy, Brown moved to Memphis in the 1920s, performing as a street musician with Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon. He then moved to Chicago in 1932, performing regularly with Broonzy, and appearing with him and other musicians including Memphis Slim and Tampa Red on innumerable recording sessions for Lester Melrose of Bluebird Records.

In 1935 he began recording in his own right for both Bluebird and Vocalion Records, becoming one of the most popular Chicago blues performers of the late 1930s and 1940s, selling numerous records and playing to packed audiences. His deep strong voice and talent for creating new songs overcame his stylistic limitations.

By the 1950s, his audience began to shrink, largely because he had difficulty adapting to the new electric blues. His final recording session was held in 1949, he retired from music for several years, and became a Chicago police officer. He recorded a session in 1953 with Big Bill and Memphis Slim, and made a modest but short-lived comeback as a live performer in the early 1960s.

Washboard Sam is buried at Washington Memorial Cemetery in Homewood, Illinois.


References
^ Pearlin, Victor, Washboard Sam Complete Recorded Works Vol.7 31 July 1942 to 27 October 1949, Document Records, 1993.

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