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Paul Oliver

[Allen, Fulton ]

(b Wadesboro, NC, July 10, 1907; d Durham, NC, Feb 13, 1941). American blues singer and guitarist. He began to lose his sight as a teenager and was completely blind by 1928. He was the outstanding exponent, though not an innovator, of the eastern or Piedmont style of blues. Influenced by Blind Blake, Blind Gary Davis, and Buddy Moss, he formulated an eclectic style, playing fast runs and swinging rag rhythms on guitar (often against cross-rhythms on a washboard) to accompany his gritty singing. Davis played for him on the traditional “Rag Mama Rag” (1935, Voc.), one of his earliest successes. Fuller adapted old songs such as the British ballad “Our Goodman,” which became “Cat Man Blues” (1936, Voc.). Although he was probably at his best with fast ragtime themes like “Step it up and go” (1940, Voc.), he was also a master of slow blues such as “Weeping Willow” (...

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Alessandro Bratus

(Zebedee )

(b ?Clarksdale, MS, c15 Jan 1929–30; d Chicago, IL, April 21, 1970). American blues singer and guitarist. He was raised in Chicago after his family settled there in 1930, and from the late 1940s he stood out as one of the city’s most innovative musicians for his virtuoso slide guitar playing and for his mastery of the wah wah pedal. A second cousin of John Lee Hooker, he was influenced by a wide range of musical styles, including the work of country guitarists Merle Travis, Les Paul, and Joe Maphis, as well as jazz and popular music. Although he was one of the most revered Chicago blues musicians on a local scale, he never acquired the stardom of Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf, because of his weak vocal abilities and his health problems due to the tuberculosis that affected him from his teens. His public recognition began in the late sixties when he released a few LPs and toured in Europe with his own group, shortly before his death in ...

Article

Dean Alger

[Alonzo ]

(b New Orleans, LA, Feb 8, 1894; d Toronto, ON, June 16, 1970). American blues and jazz guitarist and singer. Research indicates that Johnson was born in 1894 (Alger). He was influenced by the musical activities of his family and the rich musical environment in New Orleans of the early 1900s, including the early blues, jazz, and the lyrically expressive French and Spanish music traditions. He began playing violin, developed excellent guitar skill, and by the 1920s was also recording on piano, banjo, mandolin, and harmonium.

Johnson performed on violin with Charlie Creath’s band on the Mississippi riverboat St. Paul, and after winning a blues singing contest in St. Louis, he began his recording career with OKeh Records. His first recording featured “Mr. Johnson’s Blues” and “Falling Rain Blues” (OK, 1925) and was a two-sided hit. From 1925 through 1932 he made more recordings than any other bluesman. In late ...