Blues News

Blues Music Birthdays: December 31st – January 6th

Blues Music Birthdays: December 31st – January 6th

This week’s blues birthdays feature musicians Odetta Holmes, Little Smokey Smothers, Johnny Adams, Libba Cotten, and Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones!

Odetta Holmes: 12/31/30
American actress, singer-songwriter, and guitarist, as well as a civil and human rights activist, often called “The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement”. She performed in the genres of blues, jazz, spirituals, and folk. She was a key component in the American folk music revival of the 50’s and 60’s, and greatly influenced fellow folk revivalist, Bob Dylan. In her lifetime, she was awarded The National Medal of Arts, The Visionary Award, and the “Living Legend Award”.


Albert Smothers AKA Little Smokey Smothers: 1/2/39
Chicago blues guitarist and singer, he was a founding member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and worked with the likes of Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Howlin’ Wolf, and his lifelong friend, Elvin Bishop.

John Paul Jones: 1/3/46
Bassist, keyboardist and co-songwriter of the English hard rock blues band, Led Zeppelin. Outside of Zeppelin, Jones has performed, produced and recorded with a number of musical acts. He has most recently formed the rock supergroup, Them Crooked Vultures, with Dave Grohl and Josh Homme.

Laten John Adams AKA Johnny Adams: 1/5/32
A blues, jazz, gospel, R&B, and soul singer, he was called “The Tan Canary” for his multi-octave vocal range and falsetto singing.

Elizabeth Nevills AKA Libba Cotten: 1/5/1893

American folk blues singer-songwriter and self-taught guitarist who developed her own utterly unique style of playing. She began to play the banjo at a young age before switching to the guitar in her early teens. Though her skills were highly developed, and she had already written what would be her most famous song (“Freight Train”), she would give up playing for twenty-five years after starting a family. After being “rediscovered” in the 1950’s by Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger, Libba Cotten picked up the guitar and completely relearned the instrument. She began to record and perform publicly in time to join the blossoming folk revival of the 1960’s. As a left-handed guitarist, she played normally strung right-handed guitars upside down as she played the bass line with her finger and the melody with her thumb. This style is now known as “Cotten Picking”.


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