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The Greatness of Lightnin Hopkins

The Greatness of Lightnin Hopkins – Video of The Week

This video opens up with brief interviews with Jimmie Vaughan and B. B. King. They talk about Lighnin Hopkins guitar playing and his fundamental role in the history of blues music. 

Hopkins was into the blues at an early age.  It grew into a deep appreciation at the age of 8 when he met “Blind Lemon Jefferson” at a church picnic.  He learned to play the blues from his cousins and started performing at church gatherings.  It’s during this time that Lola Anne Cullum of Aladdin Records meets him. She convinces Hopkins to travel to Los Angeles, where he accompanies the pianist Wilson Smith. The duo records twelve tracks in their first sessions in 1946. An Aladdin executive decides that the pair needed more dynamism in their names and dubbed Hopkins “Lightnin'” and Wilson “Thunder”. 

Through several labels, it’s become between eight hundred and a thousand songs that he records in his career.  By the mid-to late 1950s, his prodigious output of high-quality recordings gained him a following among blues fans.  

His Carnegie Debut…

In 1959, the blues researcher Mack McCormick contacted Hopkins, hoping to bring him a broader audience engaged in the folk revival. McCormack presented Hopkins to integrated audiences first in Houston and then in California. He made his debut at Carnegie Hall on October 14, 1960, alongside Joan Baez and Pete Seeger.

In 1960, he signed with Tradition Records. The recordings which followed included his song “Mojo Hand” in 1960.  His instrument often became a second voice to discourse with, or to end his vocal phrases. It also enhanced his reputation for flair, wit and improvisational skill. A Spontaneous Style. On his guitar, Mr. Hopkins would alternate ominous single-note runs on the high strings with a hard-driving bass in irregular rhythms that matched his spontaneous, conversational lyrics.  A contemporary of Muddy Waters, B.B. King and John Lee Hooker, he was one of the last of the original blues artists. 

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