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Eddie Boyd

Eddie Boyd - Blues Pianist, singer, composer (1914 - 1994)

Starting out as a guitarist but ultimately making his name as a pianist, Eddie Boyd is universally known in blues circles for his powerful "Five Long Years." But this oft covered Chess blues classic was by no means the only highlight of an excellent career.

Born on Frank Moore's Stovall plantation near Clarksdale in the heart of the fertile Mississippi delta (his cousin, Muddy Waters, was born there just a few months later), Boyd taught himself to play the guitar at a young age. After a hard day's work in the fields, he would take to the legendary Mississippi juke joints in the evening, playing and singing the blues to rowdy audiences of black workers. But it was a tough upbringing, and Boyd, frustrated by the unfair segregationist policies, ran into trouble after a fight with a white youth (some accounts suggest that Boyd threw a hayfork!). As a result of that incident, he joined the hordes of Southern blacks who moved further north to seek their fortune, and settled in Memphis around 1931.

The move to an even more stimulating musical environment soon rubbed off, and he learned to play the piano, developing a style that owed much to Roosevelt Sykes and Leroy Carr. He continued to play regularly in the city's bars and juke joints, often appearing on Beale Street as a pianist and singer with his band the Dixie Rhythm Boys.

But Boyd's real yearning was to commit his music to record, and in 1940 he ventured further northwards up the Mississippi to the historic capital of the blues, Chicago. By now an accomplished pianist, he felt very much in his element in the Windy City and soon became a prominent figure on the local blues scene, collaborating with luminaries such as Johnny Shines and Muddy Waters. He also found regular work on studio sessions for the RCA Victor and Bluebird labels with John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Slim, Jazz Gillum and Tampa Red. Together with producer Lester Melrose, these musicians gave rise to what became known as the "Bluebird beat", a powerful group-based style where drums, bass and piano provided dynamic support for the leader's guitar and voice.

Boyd played on some of the classic recordings of harp legend Sonny Boy Williamson I, such as "Elevator Woman" (1947). In the same year, he played piano on a session with Big Maceo, after the latter had suffered a paralysis to his right-hand side. Melrose also gave Boyd the opportunity to record his own material, billing him as "Little Eddie Boyd". He debuted as a solo artist for RCA Victor in 1947 and remained with the label until 1949, recording a total of 21 swinging R&B sides in five sessions for the company.

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Album Discography



B.B. King
guitar, electric
Buddy Guy
guitar, electric
Willie Dixon
bass, acoustic
Jimmy Reed
guitar, electric
Earl Hooker
guitar, slide
Otis Rush
guitar, electric
Koko Taylor
voice / vocals
Jimmy Rogers
guitar, electric
Pee Wee Crayton
guitar, electric
Robert Nighthawk
guitar, slide

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