Acrobat Music

Big Bill Broonzy, legendary bluesman, singer, guitarist and composer, died on 14th August 1958

Big Bill Broonzy, legendary bluesman, singer, guitarist and composer, died on 14th August 1958
Big Bill Broonzy was a key figure in the history of 20th century blues, with a career that spanned four decades from the '20s through the '50s, his music charting the development from rural country blues through to the more urban Chicago style, and reverting to his roots during the folk/blues revival of the '50s. Born in the late 19th century in Arkansas, his childhood followed the classic path, playing home-made instruments at picnics and church events. He became a sharecropper but drought ruined him, and in 1917 he was drafted to the war in Europe, and after returning headed for Chicago in 1920, where he took up guitar, doing odd jobs to supplement his income. He got a deal with Paramount, but his records did not sell particularly well, and he shuffled between labels, gradually achieving some success and getting better known. He moved to Bluebird in 1934, by this time developing a harder R&B sound, and as well as his solo recordings often provided songs for and performed with Washboard Sam, Jazz Gillum, and Tampa Red. In 1938, he took the place of the recently-deceased Robert Johnson on John Hammond's Spirituals to Swing concert at Carnegie Hall. In the '40s he developed his songwriting, playing across the spectrum of blues styles to appeal to the growing audience for the blues, and going with the flow of Chicago urban blues, adopting the electric guitar in 1942. As the '50s dawned, Broonzy became part of a touring folk music revue, leading to a tour of Europe where he was rapturously received, resulting on high profile appearances on his return with Leadbelly, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and Pete Seeger, playing the acoustic music of his rural roots. He was by now financially successful and toured and travelled throughout the world through the '50s. However, he had contracted throat cancer and died in 1958. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980. Acrobat has a collection of his recordings on catalogue - for details click here.
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