Sam Hopkins had the blues from 1920 all the way into the 1980s. During his long career, he experienced both celebrity and obscurity; today he's remembered as a Blues great and takes a place, along with Blind Lemon Jefferson and T-Bone... [more]
Sam Hopkins had the blues from 1920 all the way into the 1980s. During his long career, he experienced both celebrity and obscurity; today he's remembered as a Blues great and takes a place, along with Blind Lemon Jefferson and T-Bone Walker, in the trinity of Texas Blues. His scratchy voice, ragged guitar, and off-the-cuff lyrics carried him from back alleys and gin joints to Carnegie Hall. His inspiration came early: at a mere eight years of age, Hopkins met and performed with Blind Lemon Jefferson at a country picnic.
By the time he hit his early teens, Hopkins was performing across East Texas with his cousin, vocalist Texas Alexander. The duo continued to perform on and off until the mid-1930s, when Hopkins did a stint in prison for an unknown offense. He rejoined his cousin after his release, but was soon discovered and signed by a talent scout for Aladdin Records. Aladdin paired Hopkins with pianist Wilson "Thunder" Smith, and when their album was released, "Lightnin'" was born. The album produced the hit "Katie May," which led to Hopkins' first solo album in 1947.
Hopkins' career rolled along into the 1950s. While many labels picked him up, he was never a big commercial success and lost ground with the rise of Chicago Blues, winding up back on the streets of Houston. There, five years later, a Blues historian rediscovered him. Hopkins resumed his recording career, cutting material for Folkways, Prestige/Bluesville, Arhoolie, and other labels in the 1960s. He repackaged himself as a Folk-Blues singer and soon he was on stage at Carnegie Hall with Joan Baez and Pete Seeger. Throughout the '60s, he took his low-down Blues everywhere, from Folk festivals and coffee houses to tours with Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. Hopkins continued dishing out his own brand of Blues into the 1970s, and continued his business policy of recording for any company that promised cash up front. In all, he recorded for over 20 labels. Hopkins was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame in 1980. He died of cancer in 1982. [show less]