David “Honey Boy” Edwards, the Grammy-winning Blues musician, believed to be the oldest surviving Delta bluesman died early Monday in his Chicago home. He was 96. Edwards’ roots stretched back to the 1930s and to blues legend Robert Johnson.
Born in Shaw, Miss., in 1915, Edwards learned the guitar growing up and started playing professionally in Memphis at the age of 17.
In the 1940s he moved to Chicago, playing on Maxwell Street, and at small clubs and on street corners. By the 1950s Edwards had played with almost every bluesman of note, including Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Charlie Patton and Muddy Waters. Among Edwards’ hit songs were “Long Tall Woman Blues,” “Gamblin Man” and “Just Like Jesse James.”
Edwards played his last shows in April at the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, Miss., Frank said.
“Blues ain’t never going anywhere,” Edwards told The Associated Press in 2008. “It can get slow, but it ain’t going nowhere. You play a lowdown dirty shame slow and lonesome, my mama dead, my papa across the sea, I ain’t dead but I’m just supposed to be blues. You can take that same blues, make it uptempo, a shuffle blues, that’s what rock `n’ roll did with it. So blues ain’t going nowhere. Ain’t goin’ nowhere.”
Edwards won a 2008 Grammy for traditional blues album and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 2010. His death represents the loss of the last direct link to the first generation of Mississippi blues musicians.
Edwards was known for being an oral historian of the music genre and would tell biographical stories between songs at his shows. He was recorded for the Library of Congress in Clarksdale, Miss., in 1942.
Edwards gathered his life stories in the 1997 book “The World Don’t Owe Me Nothing: The Life and Times of Delta Bluesman Honeyboy Edwards.” He wrote in the book that his father bought a guitar for $8 from a sharecropper and Edwards learned to play in 1929.
“I watched my daddy play that guitar, and whenever I could I would pick it up and strum on it,” Edwards wrote.
Edwards was known for his far-ranging travels and played internationally. In his 90s, he was still playing about 70 shows a year. Edwards would visit with the audience after every show, taking pictures, signing autographs and talking with fans.
Edwards earned his nickname “Honey Boy” from his sister, who told his mother to “look at honey boy” when Edwards stumbled as he learned to walk as a toddler. He is survived by his daughter Betty Washington and stepdaughter Dolly McGinister.
He had his own unique style. One that was 75-years-old, and a synthesis of the people before him and in his time.