William Lee Conley Broonzy was born in Scott,
Mississippi in 1893, moved with his family to Arkansas and became a
plough-hand at the age of 8. The first blues player he said he
ever heard was See-See Ryder, playing a one string cigar box fiddle.
Bill made his own fiddle, and at age 14 began playing picnics.
At 19 he became a preacher for 4 years, then joined the armed
services. During WWI he was stationed in France, where as a supply
officer he taught himself to read and write by looking at the boxes and
cans. After returning from the war, Bill caught a freight train
north leaving the south forever. 6ft. 6in. “Big” Bill
Broonzy became an outstanding guitar player, mentoring many a musician
while in Chicago. He recorded over 260 songs of his own, wrote
another 100 or so for other people and replaced the deceased Robert
Johnson in John Hammond's famous Bessie Smith tribute "Spirituals
to Swing" at Carnegie Hall on December 23, 1938. Big Bill
then took the blues on a tour of Europe. In an interview with
Studs Turkel, Bill said that before folks learned to sing the blues
they talked the blues. He played Mule
Ridin’, Talking Blues as an example.
Hard Hat Blues... We have come to Scott,
Mississippi to record two tunes, Mule
Ridin’, Talking Blues and a song that
speaks to Bill’s southern heritage, I’m
a Southern Man. Scott is now home to
the Delta & Pine Land Company. To get in out of the wind, D&PL
lets us record inside an empty seed bin. The one stipulation is
that we wear hard hats while we’re here. The way we were
brought up makes us never question the request. Hey, the man told
us to wear them. Perspiration pours down out of these plastic
turtles on our heads, and the seed bend is hot and sticky. It has
a nice sound however. Upon some reflection, it would have been
hard enough without the hats.