From the Annals of the Blues – In 1982, Sam (Lightnin’) Hopkins passed away. Hopkins was a blues legend whose influence cannot be overstated. He was born in Centerville, Texas, in 1912. By age ten, Hopkins was already playing music with his cousin, Alger (Texas) Alexander, and Blind Lemon Jefferson. He played all over for decades on the blues club circuit except when he was incarcerated in the mid-1930’s at the Harris County Prison Farm. In 1950 he settled in Houston and finally had his breakthrough in 1959 when Hopkins began working with legendary producer Sam Chambers. White audiences were exposed to his music and began to appreciate the blues legend. In the 1960s, Hopkins switched to an acoustic guitar and became a hit in the folk-blues circuit. During the early 1960s he played at Carnegie Hall with Pete Seeger and Joan Baez, and by the end of the decade was opening for rock bands. Hopkins recorded a total of more than eighty-five albums and performed around the world. His most famous songs include Mojo Hand, Baby Please Don’t Go, Bring Me My Shotgun, Jail House Blues and Have You Ever Loved a Woman.
From the Annals of Folk Music – In 1972, the first Kerrville Folk Festival got under way. The KFF was founded by Rod Kennedy and began with performances in the Kerrville Municipal Auditorium. This year’s festival is already under way and runs from May 24 to June 10.
The KFF bills itself as “the longest continuously running music festival in North America” and “a Mecca in the songwriting community.” The Festival is now held over 18 days at the Quiet Valley Ranch about 9 miles south of Kerrville. The Festival attracts as many as 30,000 guests come from all over the world, but each evening’s performance is limited to about 3,000 guests.
The KFF has presented many famous and not-so-famous singer-songwriters over the years, including such notables as Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Robert Earl Keen, Lucinda Williams, Peter Paul & Mary, Judy Collins, David Crosby, Janis Ian and Arlo Guthrie to name a few. You are very likely to see one or more future stars of folk music at the Festival.
Poster from the 2010 Kerrville Folk Festival.
From the Annals of the Chanteuses – In 1967, Austin celebrated “Damito Jo Day.” Damita Jo DeBlanc was born in Austin in 1930 but was raised mostly in Santa Barbara. In 1949, LA Deejay Joe Adams began to promote her career getting her gigs at Club Oasis and other LA clubs. Adams later signed her to Discovery Records but she found little success as a solo artist and spent much of the 1950’s with R&B group Steve Gibson & the Red Caps. She married Gibson but later divorced him as their marriage collapsed and the band’s fortunes waned. Her solo breakthrough came with the R&B smash hit “I’ll Save the Last Dance for You” in 1960 (an answer to “Save the Last Dance for Me” and 1961’s “I’ll Be There” (an answer to “Stand by Me”). DJ worked with a number of performers including Ray Charles, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton. In 1984, she retired from R&B and devoted the remainder of her career to modern Gospel music.
From the Annals of Rock & Roll – In 1936, Roy Orbison was born at Christ the King Hospital in Vernon. His family moved to Fort Worth and later Odessa and Wink where he spent much of his childhood. Orbison got his first guitar as a gift from his father at age 6 and by age 7 Orbison was a dedicated musician. RO began singing and in a rockabilly band – the Wink Westerners – in high school and met Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash when they played in Odessa. Orbison attended North Texas State in Denton to study geology in case music did not work out. After seeing fellow student Pat Boone make a success, Orbison became convinced he could make it as a musician. Ultimately, Orbison was signed by Sam Phillips of Sun Records but he did not flourish at that studio. His real success came after leaving Sun and signing with Monument Records. From 1960 to 1966, twenty-two of his singles reached the Billboard Top 40 including No. 1 hits “Running Scared” and “Oh, Pretty Woman.”