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King Solomon Hill

King Solomon Hill - Early Blues Singer, guitarist (1897 - 1949)

Born Joe Holmes in 1897 in Mississippi, singer and guitarist 'King Solomon' Hill left only a very small recording history, four songs to be precise, on which his worth can be judged. . Controversy long surrounded the identity of this itinerant blues singer. He fused the styles of his friends Sam Collins and Ramblin' Thomas (respectively, south Mississippi and east Texas/Louisiana musicians), and elements from Blind Lemon Jefferson, into the eerie bottleneck guitar sound that accompanied his chilling falsetto on his 1932 recordings. Nevertheless these suggest that he was an artist of considerable originality and force. His stage-name was derived from his address in Louisiana, "King Solomon Hill Baptist Church", having given its name to the community of Yellow Pines.

Holmes's masterpieces are "The Gone Dead Train" and "Whoopee Blues", the former a hobo's lament that is made all the more impressive by his near impenetrable diction. "Whoopee Blues" transforms an anodyne Lonnie Johnson song, imbuing it with the brimstone reek of hell with which the singer threatens his wayward girlfriend.

It seems that he spent most of his early years in Louisiana, traveling the party, picnic and juke joint trail with some success. Hill signed to Paramount in 1932 and recorded his four songs in Grafton, Wisconsin. (He produced six sides in total as he provided alternative takes on two of them.) Songs like "Gone Dead Train" and "Down on Bended Knee" feature almost alien vocals certainly unique to their time and place, although the best known song from that sole session was probably "Whoopee Blues". After that Hill returned to the streets and the party circuit, and little else is known of him. He was said to be a heavy drinker and he died of a brain hemorrhage in Louisiana in 1949.



Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Backwood Blues

Document Records



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