Legendary Delta Bluesman David "Honeyboy" Edwards Dies at Age 96
Posted by Michael Mueller on August 31, 2011 at 8:50 AM
Legendary Delta bluesman David "Honeyboy" Edwards, the last surviving direct link to Robert Johnson and member of the first generation of Delta blues musicians, died Monday, August 29, at his home in Chicago. He was 96.
Mr. Edwards, who announced his formal retirement just a few months ago, carved out a career spanning over eight decades—nearly the entire recorded history of the blues. Along the way, Honeyboy knew or played with virtually every major artist in the genre, including Charley Patton, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and of course, Robert Johnson, with whom he traveled in the 1930s, performing on street corners and at picnics and juke joints.
David Edwards was born June 28, 1915, in Shaw, Mississippi, to sharecropper parents who both played guitar. His father bought him his first guitar and taught him to play traditional folk ballads. Inspired by bluesman Tommy Johnson, who had come to pick cotton at a plantation near where the Edwards family lived at the time, Honeyboy left home at age 14 to travel and perform with Big Joe Williams. By age 17, he was playing professionally in Memphis. Soon afterward, his travels with Robert Johnson took place, and then in 1942, folklorist Alan Lomax recorded Edwards in Clarksdale, Mississippi, for the Library of Congress.
"Honeyboy Edwards, along with the late Robert Junior Lockwood, was a bridge between the solo acoustic country blues of the 1930s and the combos that followed," says noted blues historian Dave Rubin, who produced an instructional guitar DVD featuring Edwards titled Delta Blues Guitar. "Similar to Lockwood, who likewise knew Robert Johnson, Honeyboy always stayed true to his bona fide Delta roots. His scalding slide guitar in standard tuning (he believed real men only played in standard) and deep, raw riffs were a mainline back to the earliest and funkiest Mississippi blues."
Edwards was still playing up to 100 shows a year when he stopped touring, in 2008, and he continued to performa occasionally until this year. Edwards played his final gig at the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in April.