Tampa Red

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Tampa Red (January 8, 1904[1] – March 19, 1981), born Hudson Woodbridge but known from childhood as

Hudson Whittaker, was an American Chicago blues musician.

 

Tampa Red is best known as an accomplished and influential blues guitarist who had a unique single-string

slide style. His songwriting and his silky, polished "bottleneck" technique influenced other leading Chicago blues

guitarists, such as Big Bill Broonzy and Robert Nighthawk, as well as Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Mose

Allison and many others.[2] In a career spanning over 30 years he also recorded pop, R&B and hokum records.

His best known recordings include the "classic compositions 'Anna Lou Blues', 'Black Angel Blues', 'Crying Won't

Help You', 'It Hurts Me Too', and 'Love Her with a Feeling'".

 

Biography

 

He was born Hudson Woodbridge in Smithville, Georgia, United States. His parents died when he was a child,

and he moved to Tampa, Florida, where he was raised by his aunt and grandmother and adopted their

surname, Whittaker. He emulated his older brother, Eddie, who played guitar, and he was especially inspired

by an old street musician called Piccolo Pete, who first taught him to play blues licks on a guitar.

 

In the 1920s, having already perfected his slide technique, he moved to Chicago, Illinois, and began his career

as a musician, adopting the name 'Tampa Red' from his childhood home and light colored skin.[4] His big break

was being hired to accompany Ma Rainey and he began recording in 1928 with "It's Tight Like That", in a bawdy

and humorous style that became known as "hokum". Early recordings were mostly collaborations with Thomas

A. Dorsey, known at the time as Georgia Tom.[4] Tampa Red and Georgia Tom recorded almost 90 sides, sometimes as "The Hokum Boys" or, with

Frankie Jaxon, as "Tampa Red's Hokum Jug Band".

 

In 1928, Tampa Red became the first black musician to play a National steel-bodied resonator guitar, the loudest and showiest guitar available

before amplification, acquiring one in the first year they were available. This allowed him to develop his trademark bottleneck style, playing single

string runs, not block chords, which was a precursor to later blues and rock guitar soloing.[5] The National guitar he used was a gold-plated

tricone, which was found in Illinois in the 1990s by music-shop owner and guitarist Randy Clemens and later sold to the "Experience Music Project"

in Seattle. Tampa Red was known as "The Man With The Gold Guitar", and, into the 1930s, he was billed as "The Guitar Wizard".

 

His partnership with Dorsey ended in 1932, but he remained much in demand as a session musician, working with John Lee "Sonny Boy"

Williamson, Memphis Minnie, Big Maceo, and many others.[4] In 1934 he signed for Victor Records, remaining on their artist roster until 1953. He

formed the Chicago Five, a group of session musicians who created what became known as the Bluebird sound, a precursor of the small group style

of later jump blues and rock and roll bands.[4] He was a close friend and associate of Big Bill Broonzy and Big Maceo Merriweather. He enjoyed

commercial success and reasonable prosperity, and his home became a centre for the blues community, informally providing rehearsal space,

bookings, and lodgings for the flow of musicians who arrived in Chicago from the Mississippi Delta as the commercial potential of blues music grew

and agricultural employment in the south diminished.

 

By the 1940s he was playing electric guitar. In 1942 "Let Me Play With Your Poodle" was a # 4 hit on Billboard's new "Harlem Hit Parade",

forerunner of the R&B chart, and his 1949 recording "When Things Go Wrong with You (It Hurts Me Too)", another R&B hit, was covered by Elmore

James. He was 'rediscovered' in the late 1950s, like many other surviving early recorded blues artists such as Son House and Skip James, as part

of the blues revival. His final recordings were in 1960.

 

He became an alcoholic after his wife's death in 1953.[7] He died destitute in Chicago, aged 77.

 

 

 

The Forum post is edited by bninna Aug 12 '15
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