Booker T. Washington "Bukka" White (November 12, 1906 February 26, 1977)
was an American
Delta blues is one of the earliest-known styles of blues
Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s by African-Americans from roots in Plantation-era songs, Af ...
guitarist and singer. ''Bukka'' is a
A phonemic orthography is an orthography
An orthography is a set of conventions for writing
Writing is a medium of human communication that involves the representation of a language with written symbols. Writing systems are not themselve ...
of White's first name; he was named after the African-American educator and civil rights activist
White was born south of
Houston is a city in and one of two county seats of Chickasaw County, Mississippi, Chickasaw County, in northern Mississippi, United States. The population was 3,623 at the 2010 United States Census, 2010 census.
Native American groups h ...
He was a first cousin of
Riley B. King (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015), known professionally as B.B. King, was an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and record producer. He introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bendingString bending ...
's mother (White's mother and King's grandmother were sisters).
National may refer to:
A nation is a community of people formed on the basis of a common language, history, ethnicity, or a common culture, and, in many cases, a shared territory. A nation is more overtly political than an ... resonator guitar
A resonator guitar or resophonic guitar is an acoustic guitar that produces sound by conducting string vibrations through the bridge
A bridge is a Nonbuilding structure, structure built to Span (engineering), span a physical obstacle, su ...
s, typically with a
Slide or Slides may refer to:
Fortuna (formerly, Slide, Springville) (Wiyot language, Wiyot: ''Vutsuwitk Da'l'', "ashes stay") is a city on the northeast shore of the Eel River (California), Eel River (approximately fr ...
, in an
Guitar tunings are the assignment of pitches to the open strings of guitar
The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that typically has six string instrument, strings. It is held flat against the player's body and played by strumming o ...
. He was one of the few, along with
Nehemiah Curtis "Skip" James (June 9, 1902October 3, 1969) was an American Delta blues
Delta blues is one of the earliest-known styles of blues
Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the Unit ...
, to use a crossnote tuning
E minor is a minor scale
In music theory
Music theory is the study of the practices and possibilities of music. ''The Oxford Companion to Music'' describes three interrelated uses of the term "music theory". The first is the "Elements of music ...
, which he may have learned, as James did, from Henry Stuckey
. He also played piano, but less adeptly.
White started his career playing the
A fiddle is a bowed string
String or strings may refer to:
*String (structure), a long flexible structure made from threads twisted together, which is used to tie, bind, or hang other objects
Arts, entertainment, and media Films
* String ...
square dance #REDIRECT Square dance #REDIRECT Square dance#REDIRECT Square dance
A square dance is a dance for four couples (eight dancers in total) arranged in a square, with one couple on each side, facing the middle of the square. Square dances contain el ...
s. He claimed to have met
Charley Patton (April 1891 (probable) – April 28, 1934), also known as Charlie Patton, was an American Delta blues
Delta blues is one of the earliest-known styles of blues
Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originate ...
soon after, but some have doubted this recollection. Nonetheless, Patton was a strong influence on White. "I wants to come to be a great man like Charlie Patton", White told his friends.
He first recorded for
The Victor Talking Machine Company was an American recording company and phonograph manufacturer headquartered in Camden, New Jersey. It was the largest and most prestigious firm of its kind in the world, perhaps best known for its use of the f ...
His recordings for Victor, like those of many other bluesmen, included
Country blues (also folk blues, rural blues, backwoods blues, or downhome blues) is one of the earliest forms of blues music. The mainly solo vocal with acoustic fingerstyle guitar accompaniment developed in the rural Southern United States in th ...
Gospel music is a genre of Christian music
Christian music is music
Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a composition through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the universal cult ...
. Victor published his photograph in 1930. His gospel songs were done in the style of
Blind Willie Johnson
Blind Willie Johnson (January 25, 1897 – September 18, 1945) was an American gospel blues singer, guitarist and evangelist. His landmark recordings completed between 1927 and 1930—thirty songs in total—display a combination of powerful " ...
, with a female singer accentuating the last phrase of each line. From fourteen recordings, Victor released two records under the name Washington White, two gospel songs with Memphis Minnie on backing vocals and two country blues.
Nine years later, while serving time for assault, he recorded for the folklorist
John Avery Lomax (September 23, 1867 – January 26, 1948) was an American teacher, a pioneering musicologist
Musicology (from Greek 'μουσική' (mousikē) for 'music' and 'λογος' (logos) for 'domain of study') is the scholarly analys ...
The few songs he recorded around this time became his most well known: "
Shake 'Em On Down
"Shake 'Em On Down" is a Delta blues song by American musician Bukka White. He recorded it in Chicago in 1937 around the beginning of his incarceration at the infamous Mississippi State Penitentiary, Parchman Prison Farm in Mississippi.
It was h ...
" and "
A po' boy (also po-boy, po boy or poor boy) is a traditional sandwich
A sandwich is a food typically consisting of vegetables, sliced cheese or meat, placed on or between slices of bread, or more generally any dish wherein bread serves as a ...
". His 1937 version of the oft-recorded song "Shake 'Em on Down" is considered definitive; it became a hit while White was serving time in
Mississippi State Penitentiary
Mississippi State Penitentiary (MSP), also known as Parchman Farm, is a maximum-security prison farm located in unincorporated area, unincorporated Sunflower County, Mississippi, Sunflower County, Mississippi, in the Mississippi Delta region. Oc ...
, commonly known as Parchman Farm. He wrote about his experience there in " Parchman Farm Blues
", which was released in 1940.
He served in the US Navy from 1942 to 1944, after which he settled in
Memphis is a city along the Mississippi River in southwestern Shelby County, Tennessee, United States. Its 2020 population was 633,104, making it Tennessee's List of largest cities and towns in Tennessee by population, second-most populous city ...
, and worked outside music.
Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman; May 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter, author and visual artist. Often regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time, Dylan has been a major figure in for more than 50 years. Much of ...
covered his song " Fixin' to Die Blues
", which aided a "rediscovery" of White in 1963 by guitarist John Fahey
Ed Denson #REDIRECT ED Denson
Eugene "ED" Denson (the capitalization of both letters in his "first name" is his own spelling that evolved from constantly using his initials) is an United States, American Band (music), music group Records management, manage ...
, which propelled him into the folk music revival
of the 1960s. White had recorded the song simply because his other songs had not particularly impressed the Victor record producer. It was a studio composition of which White had thought little until it re-emerged thirty years later.
Fahey and Denson found White easily enough: Fahey wrote a letter to White and addressed it to "Bukka White (Old Blues Singer), c/o General Delivery,
Aberdeen is the county seat of Monroe County, Mississippi, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, 2010 census, the population was 5,612.
Located on the banks of the Tombigbee River, Aberdeen was one of the busiest Mississippi ports o ...
"—presuming, given White's song "Aberdeen, Mississippi", that White still lived there or nearby. The postcard was forwarded to Memphis, where White worked in a tank factory. Fahey and Denson soon traveled there to meet him, and White and Fahey remained friends for the rest of White's life. He recorded a new album for Denson and Fahey's
Takoma Records was a small but influential record label founded by guitarist John Fahey (musician), John Fahey in the late 1950s.
, and Denson became his manager. White was at one time also managed by Arne Brogger, an experienced manager of blues musicians.
Later in his life, White was friends with musician
Walter E. "Furry" Lewis (March 6, 1893 or 1899 – September 14, 1981) was an American country blues
Country blues (also folk blues, rural blues, backwoods blues, or downhome blues) is one of the earliest forms of blues
Blues is a music gen ...
. The two were recorded (mostly in Lewis's Memphis apartment) by Bob West for an album, ''Furry Lewis, Bukka White & Friends: Party! At Home'', released on the Arcola label.
White died of cancer in February 1977, at the age of 70, in Memphis, Tennessee.
In 1990 he was posthumously inducted into the
Blues Hall of Fame
The Blues Hall of Fame is a music museum located at 421 S. Main Street in Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis is a city along the Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the List of longest rivers of the United States (by main stem), second-longes ...
Arthur Blake (1896 – December 1, 1934), known as Blind Blake, was an American blues
Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s by African-Americans from roots in P ...
Lonny or Lonnie is a given name usually used for males.
* Lonny Athens, American research criminologist
* Lonny Baxter (born 1979), American former basketball player
* Lonny D. Bentley (born 1957), American professor of computer science
). On November 21, 2011, the
The Recording Academy (formally the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences; abbreviated NARAS) is an American learned academy of musicians, producers, recording engineers, and other musical professionals. It is famous for its Grammy Awa ...
announced the addition of "Fixin' to Die Blues" to its 2012 list of
Grammy Hall of Fame Award
The Grammy Hall of Fame is a hall of fame
A hall, wall, or walk of fame is a list of individuals, achievements, or animals, usually chosen by a group of electors, to mark their fame in their field. In some cases, these halls of fame consist of ...
Led Zeppelin were an English rock
Rock most often refers to:
* Rock (geology)
A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its Chemical comp ...
Hats Off to (Roy) Harper
''Led Zeppelin III'' is the third studio album by the English rock music, rock band Led Zeppelin, released in October 1970. It was recorded in three locations. Much of the work was done at Headley Grange, a country house, using the Rolling Stones ...
", on the band's 1970 album ''Led Zeppelin III'', was based in large part on White's "Shake 'Em on Down". "Custard Pie", a song on their 1975 album ''Physical Graffiti'', also references "Shake 'Em on Down."
[Lewis, Dave (1994). ''The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin''. Omnibus Press. .]
White's 1963 recordings of "Shake 'Em on Down" and spoken-word piece "Remembrance of Charlie Patton" were both Sampling (music), sampled by electronic (music), electronic artist Recoil (band), Recoil (mostly a one-man effort by Alan Wilder of Depeche Mode) for the track "Electro Blues for Bukka White" on the 1992 album ''Bloodline (Recoil album), Bloodline''. The song was reworked and re-released on the 2000 EP ''Liquid (Recoil album)#"Jezebel", Jezebel''.
In 1995, White's "Aberdeen, Mississippi" was covered as "Aberdeen" by guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd on his debut album, ''Ledbetter Heights''. It reached number 23 on the ''Billboard'' (North America) Mainstream Rock Tracks in 1996.
On January 26, 2010, Eric Bibb released ''Booker's Guitar'' (TEL 31756 02) through Telarc International Corporation, after becoming inspired by the hidden stories Bibb felt by holding White's famous guitar.
White's song "Parchman Farm Blues" was recorded by Jeff Buckley, and was released posthumously on the bonus disc of Buckley's album ''Grace: Legacy Edition''.
In 2011, White was honored with a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail in Houston, Mississippi.
The Bukka White Blues Festival is an annual music festival on Columbus Day Weekend in Aberdeen, Mississippi.
*''Mississippi Blues'' (Takoma Records, Takoma, 1964)
*''Sky Songs (Vol. 1 & 2)'' (Arhoolie Records, 1965)
*''Memphis Hot Shots'' (Blue Horizon (record label), Blue Horizon, 1968)
*''Big Daddy'' (Biograph Records, 1974)
*''Country Blues'' (Sparkasse in Concert, 1975)
*''Parchman Farm 1937–1940'' (Columbia Records, Columbia, 1969)
*''Baton Rouge Mosby Street'' (Blues Beacon, 1982)
*''Aberdeen Mississippi Blues 1937–1940'' (Travelin' Man, 1985)
*''Parchman Farm Blues'' (Orbis Records, 1992)
*''Shake' Em on Down'' (New Rose, 1993)
*''The Complete Bukka White 1937–1940'' (Columbia Records, Columbia, 1994)
*''1963 Isn't 1962'' (Adelphi, 1994)
*''Good Gin Blues'' (Drive, 1995)
*''Shake 'Em on Down'' (Catfish, 1998)
*''The Panama Limited'' (ABM, 2000)
*''Revisited'' (Fuel, 2003)
*''Aberdeen Mississippi Blues: The Vintage Recordings 1930–1940'' (Document Records, Document, 2003)
*''Mississippi Blues Giant'' (EPM, 2003)
*''Fixin' to Die'' (Snapper, 2004)
*''Parchman Farm Blues'' (Roots, 2004)
*''Aberdeen, Mississippi Blues'' (Sunset Blvd Records, 2019)
American blues guitarists
American male guitarists
American blues pianists
American male pianists
American blues singers
American country singer-songwriters
Country blues singers
American street performers
Blues musicians from Mississippi
Blues revival musicians
Country blues musicians
Delta blues musicians
Gospel blues musicians
Singers from Mississippi
People from Aberdeen, Mississippi
People from Chickasaw County, Mississippi
Musicians from Memphis, Tennessee
Vocalion Records artists
Deaths from cancer in Tennessee
20th-century American singers
20th-century American guitarists
Songwriters from Tennessee
Songwriters from Mississippi
20th-century American pianists
Guitarists from Mississippi
Guitarists from Tennessee
Country musicians from Tennessee
Country musicians from Mississippi
20th-century American male musicians
Arhoolie Records artists
Mississippi Blues Trail