Bumble Bee Slim
Cephas & Wiggins
Davis, Rev. Gary
Fuller, Blind Boy
Holeman, John Dee
Howell, Peg Leg
McTell, Blind Willie
Full name: William Samuel McTell
Other names: Blind Willie, Barrelhouse Sammy, Blind Doogie, Blind Sammy (Sammie), Georgia Bill, Red Hot Willie Glaze, Hot Shot Willie, Pig 'n' Whistle Red, Red Hot Willie
Born: May 5, 1901, Thomson, GA
Died: August 19, 1959, Milledgeville, GA
Instrument: 12-string guitar (and vocals); also
6-string guitar, accordion, harmonica, kazoo, and violin
Blind Willie was one of the best known and
influential people of the Piedmont blues players. Living a life of only 58 years, he was able to accomplish much in his life. He was born in Thomson, GA on May 5th 1901. Born almost totally blind
-- only being able to perceive light in one eye -- he ended up losing his sight completely in late childhood. McTell attended many different schools for the blind in several states including Georgia, New York, and Michigan. It is believed that his original name was actually
McTier or McTear, and was inadvertently changed to McTell by a teacher at a school for the blind who misunderstood Willie’s southern accent.
Blind Willie was born into a family rich with musicians. Both of his parents played the guitar, as well as his uncle. He was also related to Georgia Tom Dorsey, later know as the
Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey. Willie started his musical trek by first learning to play both the harmonica and the accordion, not picking up the six-string guitar until a little later.
Once Blind Willie began to record, he almost exclusively played with a twelve string, rarely picking up his six to lay down a track. McTell was able to develop a very unique style that enabled him to sound like he was playing more then one guitar at any given moment, hence his desire to play with the twelve string as opposed to the six-string.
Blind Willie McTell only married once. He was married to Ruthy Kate Williams, and later did several recording sessions with her going under the name of Ruby Glaze. Blind Willie performed and recorded under many names, some of which were Blind Sammie, Hot Shot Willie, and Georgia Bill. Georgia Bill was the name he went under while recording backup for Ruth Mary Willis. Blind Willie recorded his last session in 1956 for a small local record shop after many days of a young many trying very hard to get Willie to come and record. The following year he gave up the blues for good to preach. His wife later said that it was almost as if he knew his time was coming. He died on August 19th, 1959, in Milledgeville, GA. Blind Willie McTell survives through his
recordings, most of which are available on compact disc. Besides his unique guitar style, he also had a
clear and unconventional vocal style, which fit his style perfectly.
Barlow, William. Looking Up At Down. Temple University Press, 1989.
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Key Recordings on CD
Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 1 (1927-1931) Document
Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 2 (1931-1933) Document
Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 3 (1933-1935) Document
The Definitive Blind Willie McTell. Columbia/Legacy 475701.
Pig 'n' Whistle Red. Biograph 30171
The Blind Willie Music Festival Home
Accessed 11 Dec. 2003. <http://www.blindwillie.com>
Blues Lyrics Online. Accessed 11 Dec.
A Comprehensive List of Most Blues Sites.
Accessed 11 Dec. 2003. <http://www.netunes.com/blues-sites.htm>
BluesNet. Accessed 11 Dec. 2003. <http://bluesnet.hub.org>