Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bluesobit: Pinetop Perkins

Blues legend Pinetop Perkins has died.

Born in 1913 in Mississippi, Joe Willie Perkins might have remained a cottonpicker had he not run away from home following a fight with his grandmother. Earning a living playing in juke joints, he might have remained a guitar player, had he not had a botched operation after his arm got cut in a club fight.

Instead, he turned to piano, a decision that would give him an extraordinarily long career - he won a Grammy in 2005, the oldest person so to do. But his most profilic era was the 30s and the 40s - working across the Mississippi delta with Sonny Boy Williamson, Robert Nighthawk, BB King and Earl Hooker. It was this period - and in particular a cover of Clarence Pinetop Smith's Pinetop's Boogie Woogie - that secured Perkins his slightly-borrowed nickname.

A great sidesman for his first 70 years or so, in the late 80s Pinetop started to build a solo career. He threw himself into it, too, with over a dozen albums across the 1990s.

He played SXSW in 2005, and despite being about four times the age of most of the other acts there showed them how to do it:

Pinetop Perkins died in his sleep. He was 97.