Delta blues legend James Lewis Carter “T-Model” Ford has passed away after fighting the effects of a series of strokes since 2010. The exact date of T-Model’s birth is unknown, but the blues man is believed to have been roughly ninety.
Beginning the guitar in his early 70s, Ford became a well-respected guitarist, playing in a loose, raw delta style in the vein of R.L. Burnside and early Muddy Waters. In 1997, his first album, Pee-Wee Get My Gun, was released on Fat Possum Records. He released four more albums with Fat Possum. His last two critically acclaimed albums, The Ladies Man and Taledragger, were released by Alive Naturalsound Records.
T-Model grew up in the Mississippi delta, living a hard life as a field hand, driving trucks, and occasionally spending time in jail and on a chain gang. Ford has been a staple in the riverside town of Greenville, Mississippi, where he’d lived for years.
“This big white Lincoln pulled up with a dangerous-looking plywood trailer, with ‘Boss of the Blues’ painted on the side in black spray paint. It’s T-Model.” The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach told The Guardian in a 2010 interview, as he fondly recalled driving all day and night to track down the delta legend just to be able to play with him.
T-Model’s spontaneous, unfiltered, sparse electric sound has been widely influential as an original link to the delta’s musical importance. He is survived by more than twenty children and his wife, Stella.