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Lightnin' Hopkins

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During the day I listened to the pop stations KLIF and KBOX, as did, it seemed, almost everyone in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Apart from the occasional terrible novelty record....KLIF and KBOX played wonderful music, with KBOX seeming perhaps a little more juvenile, a little more downmarket. As a guide to how good the music was, Lightnin' Hopkins had a number-one chart hit on KLIF with "Mojo Hand". If that means nothing to you, it's time to make some serious adjustments to your life . (John Peel in Margrave Of The Marshes, p.151)

I love Lightnin' Hopkins you know. I've still got more vinyl LPs by Lightnin’ Hopkins than by any other artist. (JP, 27 June 2001)

Met him as well actually. Jumped up on stage when he was playing at Luanne’s in Dallas millions of years ago and shook his hand. (JP, 07 December 1991)


Lightnin Hopkins - Mojo Hand03:21

Lightnin Hopkins - Mojo Hand

Mojo Hand

Lightnin Hopkins - Baby Please Dont Go02:21

Lightnin Hopkins - Baby Please Dont Go

Baby Please Don't Go

Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins (1912-1982) was a blues singer, songwriter and guitarist from Houston, Texas. His long career began in the country blues era; in his youtth he worked as an accompanist to the legendary Blind Lemon Jefferson, as well as with another noted singer, Texas Alexander. Like a number of other blues singers, he also spent time in prison, but in the post-World War Two period, when urban blues was popular with black audiences, he acheived fame with a succession of R&B hits. His music still retained a rural flavour, and he had the country bluesman's ability to be a self-sufficient solo performer, improvising on guitar and composing many new songs based on old blues structures. Because of this, it was difficult to pair him with younger, white rock groups, although he did record an album wiith members of the Texas psychedelic band The !3th Floor Elevators. But long before that, he had been acclaimed by the predominantly white public of the 1960s folk and blues revival, increasing his renown beyond the Houston area where he was already a local star. He continued to record prolifically (he made more albums than any other blues artist) and toured both in the USA and overseas, visiting Europe and Japan in the late 1970s. He was described as "Houston's poet-in-residence", was the subject of three documentary films and at least one biography and is commemorated by a statue in Crockett, Texas,

Peel and Lightnin' Hopkins Edit

John Peel was a huge fan of the blues star even before he went to live in Dallas and continued to play him on shows down the decades. Lightnin' Hopkins was also indirectly responsible for JP making his first-ever radio appearance, on the Kat's Karavan show in Dallas. The DJ later recounted the story in the documentary programme Radio Radio:

So I took these records in and said, “Would you be interested in playing these?” And they said, “Very much so.” And I went to sit in the studio while they were playing them and they realized – I also had a Lightnin’ Hopkins LP called The Rooster Crowed in England, which was issued on Dobell’s Records in a limited edition of like a couple of hundred, and Lightnin’ Hopkins was important enough that they were very excited about this sort of unavailable Lighnin’ Hopkins LP. So I went in and they were playing these records, and then Hoss Carroll said, “Let’s talk to the man who has loaned them to us” – so they put me on the radio.

Festive Fifty Entries Edit

  • None

Sessions Edit

  • None

John Peel's Record Box Edit

  • Mojo Hand / Glory Be (Flashback Records) 1960
    Peel found a copy of the single during his Little Richard Cover Search and played it on 26 February 1993: "This is one of the records that I came up with this week, and a gem it is too. It was a number one record in Dallas when I lived there. Ah! Brings back wonderful memories."

Shows Played Edit

(The list below is certainly incomplete and compiled only from the database of this site and Lorcan's Tracklistings Archive. Please add additional details if known.)

1970a
1980s
1990s
(JP: “And I see in this week’s Melody Maker that PJ Harvey has a bit of an appetite for the work of Lightnin’ Hopkins. In fact, she cited an LP of his which I don’t have, and I thought I’d got most of them, so this is from one that I’ve got and I bet she doesn’t.”)
  • Long Way From Texas (LP – Last Of The Great Blues Singers) Time
  • 03 June 1998: Worried Blues (LP - Really The Blues) America
  • 19 August 1998: Back To Arkansas (LP - The Rooster Crowed In England) 77
2000s
  • 15 April 2004: Mojo Hand (7") Flashback Records
  • 11 May 2004: Long Way from Texas (LP- Last of the Great Blues Singers) Time
  • 10 June 2004: (w/ Sonny Terry): Got to Move Your Baby (LP - Last Night Blues)
  • 20 July 2004: Needed Time (LP- Space Lines: Sonic Sounds For Subterraneans) NA
  • 16 September 2004: Katie Mae (Various CD - Century Of The Blues) Chrome Dreams
Other
(AK: “Another great favourite of John's – in fact he claimed to have seen him play live in Dallas, Texas, when he was living there in the early '60s...”)

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