Avalon Blues - Mississippi John Hurt (1928)
Our LCM Classic this week is so far the earlier recording we have featured. First recorded back in 1928 with thirteen songs on the Okeh label, 'Avalon Blues' is a great folk-blues song by Mississippi John Hurt. His music influenced generations of folk and blues performers. After the recordings he then disappeared only to be tracked down in 1963 by Tom Hoskins following the clues in John's name and the lyrics in Avalon Blues. Tom found John living in a simple shack in tiny Avalon, Mississippi, the same shack pictured early in the video, and later as the reconditioned Mississippi John Hurt Museum. Not only was Hurt still alive in 1963, but the real miracle was that he retained his sweet singing voice and fluid guitar skills. He recorded dozens of songs and toured extensively in his final three years, sharing his beautiful music with the world. Sometimes in music there really are happy endings.
John Hurt taught himself to play the guitar around the age of nine. He worked as a sharecropper and began playing at dances and parties, singing to a melodious fingerpicked accompaniment. His first recordings, made for Okeh Records in 1928, were commercial failures, and he continued to work as a farmer. Okeh went out of business during the Great Depression, and John returned to Avalon and obscurity, working as a sharecropper.
Tom persuaded John to move to Washington, D.C. He was recorded by the Library of Congress in 1964. This helped further the American folk music revival, which led to the rediscovery of many other bluesmen of Hurt's era. Hurt performed on the university and coffeehouse concert circuit with other Delta blues musicians who were brought out of retirement. He also recorded several albums for Vanguard Records.
His songs have been recorded by Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, Jerry Garcia, Beck, Doc Watson, John McCutcheon, Taj Mahal, Bruce Cockburn, David Johansen, Bill Morrissey, Gillian Welch, Josh Ritter, Guthrie Thomas, Parsonsfield, and Rory Block