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Paul Oliver

[Dodds, Robert; Spencer, Robert]

(b Hazlehurst, MS, May 8, 1911; d Greenwood, MS, Aug 16, 1938). American blues singer and guitarist. As a boy he travelled with his mother around plantations and labour camps playing the jew’s harp and the harmonica. About 1927 he acquired a guitar. He was married in 1929 but his wife died in childbirth the following year. He then led a brief and reportedly wild adult life as a musical hobo in the South. Shortly before his apparently violent death, he made a number of excellent and highly influential recordings in San Antonio and Dallas; they characterize Mississippi blues of the mid-1930s and form the link between this tradition and modern Chicago blues. His work was influenced by Son House and recordings by the guitarist Lonnie Johnson, and clearly shows an awareness of Skip James and Hambone Willie Newbern, whose themes he adapted in 32·20 Blues (1936...