Photo from Yazoo Records Hero of Blues Cards
Born July 3, 1893, Teoc (Carroll County) MS
Died November 2, 1966, Grenada, MS
John's father was Isom Hurt and his mother was Mary Jan McCain. John was one of 3 children. He and his wife, Jessie, had 14 children. (Source: Blues Who's Who- A Biographical Dictionary of the Blues Singers by Sheldon Harris, published by Da Capo Paperbacks)
Mississippi John Hurt's quiet dignity, humor, superb guitar style, and his tender and expressive voice made him the most popular artist of traditional country blues re discovered by the public in the sixties.
John was not a real blues man but was a collector of popular songs who arranged them to entertain his neighbors on Saturday evenings.
Mississippi John never pursued success. In 1928 a mobile unit of the Vocalion company came to Avalon, Mississippi to look for new talents. An audition in Avalon resulted in John being called several months later to go to New York for a recording session under the direction of Lonnie Johnson. The depression led to the reduction in pressing of records and John stayed in Avalon and lived quietly on his farm with his 14 children.
Guided by the words of one of the titles recorded in 1928 by Hurt, "Avalon My Home Town", the folklorist Tom Hoskins decided in 1963 to go to Avalon. He met Hurt, who was shocked to see that someone remembered his 1928 recordings that had brought him only twenty dollars a song.
John Hurt's new career lasted only three years, but at Newport Festival, on college campuses, and in the folk clubs of Washington D.C., he displayed his talents as storyteller, entertainer, and singer. He overwhelmed the public with his outstanding mastery of the guitar.(Source: Encyclopedia of the Blues by Gerard Herzhaft, 1992 University of Arkansas Press)
top of pageDiscography (Music Blvd. Link 1) (Music Blvd. Link 2)
The video "Legends of Country Blues Guitar" (Vestapol 13003) contains two songs by Mississippi John Hurt-- Spike Driver Blues and You're Going To Walk That Lonesome Valley. They were performed on Pete Seeger's television show, Rainbow Quest WNDT- TV in 1966. This is available through Yazoo mail-order by calling (212) 253-6624 or Yazoo WebPage and is also available through Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop web page or by calling (973) 729-5544.
John also appeared on Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show, NBC-TV in 1963. I am not aware of any available copy of this appearance.Mississippi John Hurt Links Mississippi John Hurt on Vanguard Records- highly recommended.
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Copyright 1996, 1997 and 1998 by Dennis H. Tesreau, (DennisT@mindspring.com)
Last Updated September 6, 1998