Tag Archives: prewar blues

The Atlanta Bluesmen: Peg Leg Howell and His Gang

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    Henry Williams, Eddie Anthony, Peg Leg Howell.

    Columbia Records came to Atlanta in November 1926 and recorded a variety of spiritual acts and blues guitarist Peg Leg Howell. Born in 1888 in Eatonton, Georgia, Joshua Barnes Howell was a generation older than most of the prewar Atlanta bluesmen. Like Lead Belly and old Henry Thomas in Texas, his repertoire extended to country reels, field hollers, ballads, and other pre-blues styles. He attended school through ninth grade and learned how to play guitar in 1909. In an interview with George Mitchell, the researcher who rediscovered him in 1963, Howell explained, “I learnt myself – didn’t take long to learn. I just stayed up one night and learnt myself. . . . I learned many of my songs around the country. I picked them up from anybody – no special person. Mostly they just sang, did not play anything.” Over time, Howell learned to play guitar in standard tuning, as well as in Spanish, open C, and Vastopol, which he used for slide. Continue reading

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