It is with the deepest regret that we announce Mississippi Delta Blues legend Pinetop Perkins passed away at home in Austin, Texas, Monday, March 21st. He was 97 years old.
“He was one of the last great Mississippi Bluesmen,’’ said B.B. King in an e-mailed statement. “He had such a distinctive voice, and he sure could play the piano. He will be missed not only by me, but by lovers of music all over the world.’’
Willie Perkins was born in Belzoni, Mississippi in 1913 (for reference, World War I began in 1914.) Pinetop began on the guitar, but, as the story goes, was stabbed in the arm by a choirgirl and afterwards, was unable to play the guitar. He took up the piano and worked for several years with Sonny Boy Williamson (II) on the famous King Biscuit Time Radio Show, which is still playing to this day. In 1969, Pinetop took up the piano position in Muddy Waters’ band, a position that he held for over a decade. Muddy’s group struck out on their own in 1980 as the Legendary Blues Band, where Pinetop continued to grace the stage with his piano genius for another decade. Pinetop also had a brief cameo appearance with John Lee Hooker in the hit film The Blues Brothers in 1980.
In the early 90s, Pinetop concentrated on a solo career. He was quickly propelled to worldwide recognition as a solo artist. For years, Pinetop regularly released albums to much critical acclaim. In 2005, he was awarded the Grammy® Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2008, after three solo Grammy nominations and a number of nominations with Legendary Blues Band, he won a Grammy for his album Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live In Dallas. In 2008, Pinetop made a pivotal album, Pinetop Perkins and Friends, with Eric Clapton, Jimmy Vaughan, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, and B.B. King, among others. 2010’s Joined At The Hip, a collaboration with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, received another Grammy Award and, unfortunately, may prove to be Pinetop’s last studio release. He was the oldest person to ever receive a Grammy.
The Recording Academy, which presented Perkins with his Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, praised the life of the bluesman. “Whether performing solo or jamming with other notable talent, his charisma and energy stood out in every song,” said Neil Portnow, president of the academy. “His legacy has informed and inspired so many generations, and will continue to do so for many more to come.”
Joe Willie “Pinetop” Perkins
1913 – 2011