From the archives of noted blues manager and historian Dick Waterman comes a new Son House album of previously unreleased recordings from the legendary “Father Of The Delta Blues," restored to remarkable clarity by producer Dan Auerbach.
Edward James "Son" House Jr. was an American delta blues singer and guitarist, noted for his highly emotional style of singing and slide guitar playing, and has long been considered one of the most important and pivotal blues musicians ever, along with Charley Patton and Robert Johnson.
After years of hostility to secular music, as a preacher and for a few years also working as a church pastor, he turned to blues performance at the age of 25. He quickly developed a unique style by applying the rhythmic drive, vocal power and emotional intensity of his preaching to the newly learned idiom. In a short career interrupted by a spell in Parchman Farm penitentiary, he developed his musicianship to the point that Charley Patton, the foremost blues artist of the Mississippi Delta region, invited him to share engagements and to accompany him to a 1930 recording session for the legendary Paramount Records.
Issued at the start of the Great Depression, the records did not sell and did not lead to national recognition, but locally, House remained popular through the 1930s. There he was a formative influence on Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. In 1941 and 1942, House and the members of his band were recorded by legendary ethnomusicologists Alan Lomax and John Work for the Library of Congress and Fisk University. The following year, he left the Delta for Rochester, NY and gave up music for over 20+ years.
In 1964, blues historian Dick Waterman helped re-discover Son House. With his encouragement, House relearned his repertoire and established a career as an entertainer, performing for young, mostly white audiences in coffeehouses, at folk festivals and on concert tours during the American folk music revival, having been billed as a "folk blues" singer. He recorded several albums, and some informally taped concerts have also been issued as albums. House died in 1988 at the age of 86. In 2017, his legendary single, "Preachin' The Blues," was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
On the evening of June 23, 1964, a red Volkswagen Beetle bearing three blues enthusiasts arrived in Rochester, New York. The young men were following a trail of clues in their search of a legend, and they found him sitting on the steps of an apartment building at 61 Greig Street.
“This is him,” Son House said.
Born Eddie James House, Jr. in Lyon, Mississippi in 1902, Son House at that time had not played music for more than two decades. But the re-release of his early work – commercial 78s issued by Paramount Records in 1930 and two field recordings by Alan Lomax of the Library of Congress in 1941-42 – by Origin Jazz Library and Folkways Records had excited fresh interest in a growing community of blues aficionados.
Within months of his rediscovery by Dick Waterman (who became House’s manager and handler), Nick Perls and Phil Spiro, the once-obscure 62-year-old musician was thrust into the public eye by a story in Newsweek magazine and a series of performances at folk music festivals and college campuses around the country.
Forever On My Mind, the new album of previously unreleased Son House recordings from Easy Eye Sound, the independent label operated by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, is the premiere release from Waterman’s personal cache of ’60s recordings by some of the titans of Delta blues. His collection of quarter-inch tapes – which are being restored to remarkable clarity by Easy Eye Sound – have gone unreleased until now.
Waterman says, “I always knew that I wanted this body of tape that I had to come out together as The Avalon Collection or The Waterman Tapes, as sort of my legacy. They were just here at my home, on a shelf. I had made a few entries to record companies, but nothing had really come through. I thought that Dan Auerbach would treat the material with reverence and respect.”
Auerbach says, “Easy Eye Sound makes blues records, and not many people make blues records anymore. This record continues where we started off, with our artists Leo Bud Welch and Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes and Robert Finley. It also is part of my history – some of the first blues music I heard was Son House. I was raised on his Columbia LP, Father Of Folk Blues. My dad had that album and would play it in the house when I was a kid, so I know all those songs by heart.”
Forever On My Mind is the earliest issued full-length House solo performance recorded after his rediscovery, at an appearance captured on November 23, 1964 at Wabash College, a small men’s school in Crawfordsville, Indiana.