1966 – Blues great Mississippi John Hurt dies. …on November 2nd, 1966 at 12:30 pm
1966 – Blues great Mississippi John Hurt dies.
Born July 3, 1893, Teoc (Carroll County) MS
Died November 2, 1966, Grenada, MS
John’s father was Isom Hurt and his mother was Mary Jan McCain. John was one of 3 children. He and his wife, Jessie, had 14 children. (Source: Blues Who’s Who- A Biographical Dictionary of the Blues Singers by Sheldon Harris, published by Da Capo Paperbacks)
Mississippi John Hurt’s quiet dignity, humor, superb guitar style, and his tender and expressive voice made him the most popular artist of traditional country blues re discovered by the public in the sixties.
John was not a real blues man but was a collector of popular songs who arranged them to entertain his neighbors on Saturday evenings.
Mississippi John never pursued success. In 1928 a mobile unit of the Vocalion company came to Avalon, Mississippi to look for new talents. An audition in Avalon resulted in John being called several months later to go to New York for a recording session under the direction of Lonnie Johnson. The depression led to the reduction in pressing of records and John stayed in Avalon and lived quietly on his farm with his 14 children.
Guided by the words of one of the titles recorded in 1928 by Hurt, “Avalon My Home Town”, the folklorist Tom Hoskins decided in 1963 to go to Avalon. He met Hurt, who was shocked to see that someone remembered his 1928 recordings that had brought him only twenty dollars a song.
John Hurt’s new career lasted only three years, but at Newport Festival, on college campuses, and in the folk clubs of Washington D.C., he displayed his talents as storyteller, entertainer, and singer. He overwhelmed the public with his outstanding mastery of the guitar.(Source: Encyclopedia of the Blues by Gerard Herzhaft, 1992 University of Arkansas Press)
(Music Blvd. Link 1) (Music Blvd. Link 2)
Avalon Blues (Flyright # Flycd06) This was produced in France. The sound quality is perfect and it is the best quality studio recording I have heard of John. It is actually the Library of Congress sessions taped in 1963. This was only the second time John had performed professionally, the first being in the 1928 sessions, listed below on Yazoo Records. John was 70 years old at the time and died only 3 years after these recordings were made. Present during the recordings was Dick Spottswood who along with Tom Hoskins rediscovered John in 1963. This is very difficult to find at this time. This is an absolute must so if you are unable to find it e-mail me below for suggestion sources. (Do not confuse this with the CD of the same title produced by Rounder records in 1991).
Memorial Anthology (Genes GCD9906/07) This was released in 1993 and is a live 2 CD set. It is quite good and the recording quality is excellent. It includes a wonderful interview of John by Pete Seeger for Seeger’s Sing Out magazine. The interview is over 20 minutes long. John talks about his first guitar, his recording and his rediscovery. This is a great interview and is a must for a true fan of Mississippi John. In discussing his guitar style John states in the interview “I just make my guitar sound like the way I thought it should.” The music was recorded by Blues enthusiast Gene Rosenthal at the Ontario Place coffeehouse in Washington. DC in November 1964. Highly recommended. For an excellent review from the All Music Guide click on this link.
The Best of Mississippi John Hurt (Vanguard VCD-19/20) This is a live performance at Oberlin College in Ohio recorded on April 15, 1965. It contains a number of excellent “religious” recordings of John that are not found on studio recordings. They are extremely well done and this CD is a must if you want a collection of all types of John’s songs. John tells some stories during the performance and I highly recommend this CD and it is an absolute must if you enjoy live recordings. The link above to Vanguard includes a listing of all songs on the album.
Today! (Vanguard VMD-79220) This, as well as all the Vanguard recordings, is very good sound quality and is the first and best of the studio recordings of John. The link to Vanguard above includes the original liner notes and a complete listing of songs on the album.
The Immortal Mississippi John Hurt (Vanguard VMD 79248) This is the second of John’s studio recording sessions for Vanguard. This also has very good sound quality. Included are excellent liner notes by Dick Waterman who became John’s manager as well as the manager of some of the other rediscovered Blues artists. John, when asked by Waterman what he wanted out of life more than anything else, said “If I was to have just one wish and I knew that wish was to come true, . . . I would wish that everyone in this world would love me just like I love everyone in this world.” From everything I have heard and read about John Hurt, this describes him best. The link to Vanguard above includes the complete liner notes and a complete song listing.
Last Sessions (Vanguard VMD 79327) This is the last of John’s studio recordings for Vanguard. His voice seems weaker than on the other two Vanguard studio recordings but it remains an excellent recording. The link to Vanguard above includes a complete listing of all songs on the album.
Avalon Blues (Rounder CD 1081) This is volume one of what is known as the Piedmont Sessions. It is also available on album on OJL and is titled Folk Songs/Blues. Included are excellent liner notes contributed to by Tom Hoskins, one of the people who “rediscovered” John. It was recorded in April 1963. When asked if John knew how good his music was he replied, “Yeah . . . I know it . . . and I been knowin it, but I never dreamed things would have turned out like they have. . . never dreamed it.” The link to Rounder above includes cover art, song listings, a sound sample and review.
Worried Blues (Rounder CD 1082) This is part two of the Piedmont Sessions. It, too, is available on album on OJL and is titled the same. The link to Rounder above includes cover art, song listings, a sound sample and a brief review.
The Legacy of Mississippi John Hurt (Rounder 1083) I have not been able to locate this yet.
The Candy Man (Quicksilver Records C-QS-5042) I have found this on cassette only to date. The sound quality is not as good as the Vanguard releases.
Mississippi John Hurt In Concert (Magnum Music Group MACD 021) This is essentially the same recording as Best of Mississippi John Hurt on Vanguard. Both are performed at Oberlin College in Ohio in 1965. The order of the recordings varies from Best Of Mississippi John Hurt on Vanguard. I would recommend the Vanguard recording of the two, although both are excellent live recordings.
Satisfying Blues (Home Cooking Collectables Col-CD-5529) This is a satisfactory recording but not as good as the Vanguard recordings.
1928 Sessions (Yazoo 1065) These are the original recordings performed by John prior to his “rediscovery” by Tom Hoskins in 1963. The quality is not very good but they are a must if you want to hear the original recordings of John. They are also available on Biograph records but I have not located them. The liner notes are informative and interesting. It contains some of John’s “religious” recordings not otherwise found on studio recordings or in concert.
Mississippi John Hurt- Avalon Blues: The Complete 1928 Okeh Recordings (Columbia/Sony records 1996) This is another release of the Columbia “Roots n Blues” series. It has excellent liner notes and includes some nice pictures. The sound quality is better than the original Yazoo release. The recordings are the same as 1928 sessions, although the order differs. Highly recommended.
Coffee Blues (IMP/Blues Collector 309) This is available now on both the CD now site and Music Blvd site under my “Blues Source Page”. It is imported from France and the liner notes are in French only. The sound quality is very good. All the songs are available on other John Hurt albums.
Satisfied… Live (Boomerang Records BEA-51577) This is another live recording by John and it is great just to hear him speak between songs. The sound quality is not on par with the Vanguard live recording “Best of” or with his other live recording, Mississippi John Hurt in Concert, but it is still worth the purchase just to hear John speak with the audience between songs.
Mississippi John Hurt- Legend (Rounder CD 1100) This CD has a short letter written by John Hurt about his life and contains some great pictures of John as well as informative liner notes. It also contains some recordings not normally found on Hurt recordings such as Do Lord Remember Me and Stockwell. These recordings are from original masters of Hurt recordings by Tom Hoskins and until the release of this CD by Rounder were unavailable for legal reasons. As with any releases by Rounder, the quality of these recordings are very good. The link to Rounder above includes cover art, sound sample and partial liner notes.
Rediscovered (Vanguard 79519, released 8/11/98) This recently released recording on Vanguard is an excellent compilation from other Vanguard Hurt recordings containing 24 songs. All can be found on either Today!, Immortal, Best of or Last Sessions. As usual the recording quality is excellent. The link above to Vanguard includes a complete song listing, pictures and an excellent short bio by Ed Ward, the rock historian for National Public Radio.
Ain’t No Tellin (Import from AIM 1998) This contains 21 live recordings. I have been unable to locate this album but it was recently reviewed by Blues Access magazine in the Spring 1998 issue. The review is linked above.
Stefan Grossman’s–Masters Of Country Blues Guitar (Warner Brothers Music F3176GTX) This is a 2 CD set that is included with a book of the same title by Stefan Grossman. There are a total of 25 songs on the set and each song is listed in the book with the music and lyrics. Stefan Grossman learned directly from John Hurt after John’s rediscovery. The book accompanying this set is superb with some excellent pictures. This is very highly recommended.
Blues at Newport (Vanguard VCD 115/16) This is a collection of many Blues “greats” recorded live at Newport folk festivals from 1959 to 1964. John performs 3 songs, Candy Man, Coffee Blues and Stagolee. Other artists include Skip James, Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry, Reverend Gary Davis, Sleepy John Estes, John Lee Hooker and others. The quality is very good for a live concert recording.
Blues With a Feeling (Vanguard VCD2-77005) This is a 2 CD set of recordings from the Newport folk festivals from 1963 to 1968. John performs 2 songs, Here I Am Lord Send Me and Pallet On Your Floor. Other artists include Son House, Skip James, Bukka White, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and others. Once again the sound quality is very good.
Newport Folk Festival-1963, The Evening Concerts: Volume 1. John performs See, See Rider, Stagolee, Spikedriver Blues and Coffee Blues. (Vanguard VCD 77002 1964)
Great Bluesmen at Newport (Vanguard Records CD # 77/78-2) Contains two songs by John. They are Trouble, I’ve Had All My Days and Sliding Delta.
Vanguard Blues Sampler (Vanguard 74002-2) This contains only one song by John, Corrina, Corrina. It is an excellent sampler, however, of Vanguard Blues artists and includes selections by Buddy Guy, Skip James, Junior Wells, Charlie Musselwhite, Otis Span, and others.
Mississippi John Hurt/Library of Congress Recordings 1963/ Sacred and Secular (Heritage 320) I have been unable to locate this to date.
top of page
The video “Legends of Country Blues Guitar” (Vestapol 13003) contains two songs by Mississippi John Hurt– Spike Driver Blues and You’re Going To Walk That Lonesome Valley. They were performed on Pete Seeger’s television show, Rainbow Quest WNDT- TV in 1966. This is available through Yazoo mail-order by calling (212) 253-6624 or Yazoo WebPage and is also available through Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop web page or by calling (973) 729-5544.
John also appeared on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show, NBC-TV in 1963. I am not aware of any available copy of this appearance.
top of page
Mississippi John Hurt Links
Mississippi John Hurt on Vanguard Records- highly recommended.
Mississippi John Hurt (French)- a nice link from a friend in France AltaVista: Translation
1928 Sessions Album Cover
Short Biography and Music Sample
Mudcat Cafe Mississippi John Hurt Room
Mississippi John Hurt Print of “Coffee Blues
Mississippi John Hurt American Music Archives Bio
Mississippi John Hurt Yazoo Hero of Blues Card
Mississippi John Hurt Painting
Mississippi John Hurt Guitar Tabs
Louis Collins, My Creole Belle, Nobodys Business, Stack O Lee Blues, tunings
Candy Man, Stack O Lee Blues, Louis Collins, Nobodys Business
Nobody Cares For Me