Estes, Sleepy John (Adam)
- Paul Oliver
(b Ripley, TN, Jan 25, 1899; d Brownsville, TN, June 5, 1977). American blues singer and guitarist. The son of a farmer who played guitar, he lost the sight of one eye as a child and had failing vision in the other. He learned to play guitar in his early teens and performed at country picnics and parties in the Brownsville area. He began recording in 1929 with a local mandolin player, Yank Rachel, and the Memphis pianist Jab Jones. “Milk Cow Blues” (1930, Vic.) has the punctuated phrasing, broken voice, and compelling swing that characterize his best recordings. He made a number of fine recordings with a younger Brownsville musician, Hammie Nixon, on harmonica, including “Drop Down Mama” (1935, Decca), which has beautifully integrated instrumental lines. Estes drew from his personal experience for his themes: “Floating Bridge” (1937, Decca) tells of being nearly drowned, while “Brownsville Blues” (...