28 September 1910
Mississippi, United States
23 September 1980 (aged 69)
Houston Stackhouse (September 28, 1910 – September 23, 1980) was an American Delta blues guitarist and singer. He is best known for his association and work with Robert Nighthawk. Although Stackhouse was not especially noted as a guitarist nor singer, Nighthawk showed gratitude for being taught to play by Stackhouse, by backing him on a number of recordings in the late 1960s. Apart from a tour to Europe, Stackhouse confined his performing around the Mississippi Delta.
Stackhouse was born Houston Goff, in Wesson, Mississippi, and was the son of Garfield Goff. He was raised by James Wade Stackhouse on the Randall Ford Plantation, and Stackhouse only learned the details of his parentage when he applied for a passport in later life.
Relocating in his teenage years with his family to Crystal Springs, Mississippi, he became inspired listening to records by Blind Blake, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lonnie Johnson, and by local musicians. By the late 1930s, Stackhouse had played guitar around the Delta states and worked with members of the Mississippi Sheiks, plus Robert Johnson, Charlie McCoy and Walter Vinson. He also teamed up with his distant cousin, Robert Nighthawk, whom he taught how to play guitar. Originally a fan of Tommy Johnson, Stackhouse often covered his songs. In 1946, Stackhouse moved to Helena, Arkansas to live near to Nighthawk, and for a time was a member of Nighthawk’s band, playing on KFFA radio.
He split from Nighthawk in 1947 and alongside the drummer James "Peck" Curtis, appeared on KFFA's "King Biscuit Time" programme, with the guitar player Joe Willie Wilkins plus pianists Pinetop Perkins and Robert Traylor. Sonny Boy Williamson II then rejoined the show, and that combo performed across the Delta, using their radio presence to advertise their concert performances.
Stackhouse tutored both Jimmy Rogers and Sammy Lawhorn on guitar techniques. Between 1948 and 1954, Stackhouse worked during the day at the Chrysler plant in West Helena, Arkansas, and played the blues in his leisure time. He did not move from the South, unlike many of his contemporaries, and continued to perform locally into the 1960s with Frank Frost, Boyd Gilmore and Baby Face Turner. In May 1965, Sonny Boy Williamson II, who was by then back on "King Biscuit Time", utilised Stackhouse when he was recorded in concert by Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records. The recording was issued under Williamson's name, titled King Biscuit Time. Shortly afterwards, Williamson died, but Stackhouse continued briefly on the radio program, back in tandem with Nighthawk.
In 1967, George Mitchell recorded Stackhouse in Dundee, Mississippi. Named the Blues Rhythm Boys, Stackhouse was joined by both Curtis and Nighthawk, although the latter died shortly after the recording was made. Another field researcher, David Evans, recorded Stackhouse in Crystal Springs, but by 1970 following the deaths of both Curtis and Mason, Stackhouse had moved on to Memphis, Tennessee. There he resided with his old friend Joe Willie Wilkins and his wife Carrie. At the height of the blues revival Stackhouse toured with Wilkins, and the Memphis Blues Caravan, and appeared at various music festivals. His lone trip overseas saw Stackhouse play in 1976 in Vienna, Austria.
Earlier in February 1972, Stackhouse recorded an album titled Cryin' Won't Help You. It was released on CD in 1994.
Stackhouse returned to Helena, where he died in September 1980, at the age of 69. A son, Houston Stackhouse Jr., survived him.
The acoustic stage at the annual Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival is named after Stackhouse.
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