Tag Archives: Lightnin Hopkins

Today in Texas History – January 30

Lightnin' strikes ba by Lightnin' Hopkins, LP with tromatism - Ref:115054595

From the Annals of the Bluesmen – In 1982, Sam “Lightnin” Hopkins passed.  Hopkins was born in Centerville and began his music career at age 8 playing with a homemade cigar-box guitar with chicken-wire strings. He was soon playing with his  cousin, Alger (Texas) Alexander and Blind Lemon Jefferson who were both mentors to the young musician. By the time he was 20 Hopkins was playing the blues on the road.  Like all good bluesmen, Hopkins served time in jail in the 1930s for an unknown offense.  He continued with music after his release with mixed success living for a while in Houston.  At one point he returned to Centerville to work as a farm hand.  By 1946 he was back in Houston where he met Lola Anne Cullum of Aladdin Records from Los Angeles.  She convinced Hopkins to travel to Los Angeles, where he accompanied the pianist Wilson Smith. The duo recorded twelve tracks in their first sessions in 1946. An Aladdin executive decided the pair needed more dynamism in their names and dubbed Hopkins “Lightnin'” and Wilson “Thunder”. He returned to Houston and continued recording with Gold Star records playing mostly in Texas blues clubs.  In 1959, Hopkins was contacted by music researcher Mack McCormick who managed to get Hopkins’ music in front of white audiences in Houston and California just in time to catch the folk-blues revival of the 1960s.  He switched to an acoustic guitar to capitalize on the trend and later began getting gigs as an opening act for such rock bands. The documentary, The Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins captures much of his on-stage brilliance and behind the scenes life.  Over his career, Hopkins recorded a total of more than eighty-five albums.

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