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Blind Blake Biography & Recordings

Blind Blake Biography & Recordings

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Best of Blind Blake

All the Published Sides

Ragtime Guitar’s Foremost Fingerpicker

Southern Rag

Blind Blake Vol. 1
American singer/guitar player Blind Blake was most famous for his work in the blues and ragtime genres. Blake is widely considered to be one of the best blues guitarists of all time, one who, revolutionized the genre. Blind Blake was the one to pioneer finger style ragtime on the guitar, which enabled guitar players to play ragtime, which was previously only possible on a piano. Virtuoso Carlos Barbosa-Lima, probably the world’s most accomplished ragtime guitarist, whose Joplin rags disc on Concord is one great ragtime guitar recording, owes a debt to Blake. But despite his incredible importance to American music, very little is actually known about Blind Blake. Researchers have recently compiled as much information as they can about the elusive singer and guitarist, but much of his life is still shrouded in mystery.

Blind Blake was born in 1896 under the name Arthur Blake. Paramount Record claims he was born in Jacksonville, Florida, but his recently surfaced death certificate states that his place of birth was Newport News, Virginia. Some even speculate Blind Blake was born on the coast of Georgia, though this is not likely. It is known for certain that Blake had family in Jacksonville, which is what places it on the map as the most likely place of Blake’s birth. In one recording of Blind Blake in concert, he briefly slips into a Geechee dialect, which makes many speculate that he grew up in Georgia, where that dialect is exclusively spoken. Regardless of where Blind Blake was born or spent his childhood, the musician had an outstanding career.

He signed with Paramount Records in 1926 during the summer. He played solo guitar on other musician’s tracks, but when

You might remember this tune from "Oh Brother Where Art Thou."

his talents caught the attention of several record executives, he was given a record of his own to make within a month. That record, “Early Morning Blues,” was the first record to explore the ragtime guitar style. It became immensely popular, and started out a long, fruitful career for the musician. Several of Blind Blake’s songs are now considered country blues standards, which demonstrates the level of influence the artist’s body of work has had on the genre today. Blake made records for Paramount until 1932, when Paramount went bankrupt as the American economy collapsed into depression.

Blind Blake’s personal life was plagued by demons, and there are reports that the singer’s alcoholism contributed heavily to the downfall of his career. His drinking was so severe that many speculate that the A-side of one of Blind Blake’s albums was not recorded by him because neither the guitar or voice sounds like him. After Paramount went belly-up, he essentially vanished immediately after finishing his final record. Many believed that at this point, Blind Blake drifted back to Jacksonville where he lived the rest of his days. Recently, however, Blake’s death certificate was uncovered in a courthouse in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It listed his date of death as December 1, 1934, with the probable cause of death being pulmonary tuberculosis. However uncertain his life was, Blind Blake had a great deal of influence over the development of American music and, most importantly, his records are fantastic and worth listening to today.