Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Texas Tidbits: Blues, Texas Style: Struck By Lightnin'

Blues. Music that touches and tortures the soul. Music that sings of joy and triumph and, at the same time, despair and tragedy. We all, at one point or another, have experienced the gamut of emotions that is the blues. However, it takes an artist, a Van Gogh with a guitar, a Shakespeare with a song, to make someone feel the blues. One such man was born in Centerville, Texas on March 15, 1912, Sam "Lightnin' " Hopkins. As a young black boy growing up in Centerville (halfway between Dallas and Houston on I-45), Sam was immersed in the blues. At age eight, Sam met a true Blues Man, Blind Lemon Jefferson, at a church picnic in nearby Buffalo. That experience was Sam's baptism into the church of the blues. By the mid 1920's, Hopkins was jumping trains, throwing dice and playing the blues, living the blues. But a decade or so later Lightnin' was imprisoned in Houston County for reasons unclear. After prison, he moved to Houston to get in on the music scene there. Unsuccessful, Sam was soon back in Centerville working as a farm hand. Taking a second shot at Houston in 1946 turned out to be a monumental decision for Hopkins, the blues and, eventually, the world. From then until the early '50's, Lightnin' rarely played outside Texas, but when he the late Paul Harvey said, "Now you know the rest of the story"- playing in countries around the globe, in front of monarchs and poor folks, Hopkins became a legend. On January 30, 1982 in his beloved Houston, Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins succumbed to cancer at age 69. Cue the the blues... "Lightnin'" has struck Texas.

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