C.C. Rider the Venerator: Bukka White

It was 1961. The very beginning of the folk blues revival. An up and comin’ young folk singer recorded a track for his debut album called "Fixin’ to Die"...

This is the latest from The Bluesmobile’s C.C. Rider, who spends her life venerating the founding fathers of the blues. She’s walked the crooked highways of this singing country to resurrect the voices of the past. With the dirt of the Delta on her hands, she sleeps in the shadow of the giants on whose shoulders popular music now stands.

Bukka White

(Nov 12, 1909 – Feb 26, 1977)

It was 1961. The very beginning of the folk blues revival. An up and comin’ young folk singer recorded a track for his debut album called “Fixin’ to Die.”

Bob Dylan’s version sparked the interest of another young folkie- John Fahey. He wanted to know where the man was who wrote that song, whether he was living or dead. All John knew he got from a few recordings from the late thirties. The man’s name was Bukka White. He’d been slammed in Parchman Farm Prison for some of his life. And he had once written a song about a little town called Aberdeen, Mississippi.

So Fahey did the only thing he could think of. He wrote a letter and addressed it like this: Bukka White (Old Blues Singer) care of General Delivery, Aberdeen, Mississippi, Post Office. And it worked.

Bukka was living in Memphis, but the letter got forwarded on to him. He responded—and the rest is history.

Turns out, the man who’d written “Shake ‘em On Down,” was in fine form. Since his brief recording career in the late 1930’s Bukka had been a boxer, a baseball player, a prisoner, a member of the US Navy. And now, thanks to John Fahey, over 20 years later he was back behind his National Resonator guitar.

Here’s the track Dylan did so well—Bukka White, “Fixin’ to Die”.

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