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Willie '61' Blackwell


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Some believe that Willie Blackwell was born around 1898. Another source claims that he was born on December 25, 1905 in LaGrange, TN. He reportedly spent his early years in Memphis. He was originally a piano player, but sometime in the 1920’s he was severely beaten, by friends of another piano player after a talent contest, that caused major damage to his left arm, since he had bested the other contestant. He later picked up and learned how to play guitar, and claimed that he received lessons from Robert Johnson, who he knew from a friendship with Robert Lockwood, Jr. He also stated that he was related to Calvin Frazier. In 1941 he traveled to Chicago, IL. and recorded eight songs for the Bluebird label. In 1942, Alan Lomax recorded two more songs from him for The Library of Congress, this time on a plantation in Arkansas. In 1944 he moved to Detroit, MI. along with Baby Boy Warren, where he landed work in the Chevrolet division of General Motors until he retired. He was rediscovered in Flint, MI. in 1967 with the aid of Dr. Ross. He started playing in public again, sometimes on guitar as well as piano. His last recordings were made for the Adelphi Records label, that were taped at a Memphis blues festival in December, 1971. He is believed to have passed away in 1972.


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