Spike Driver Blues

Mississippi John Hurt

Re-discovering John Hurt

Mississippi John Hurt (guitar & vocals) plays his song “Spike Drivers Blues” for Pete Seeger and his wife on Seeger’s “Rainbow Quest” television show in the mid-1960’s.

Raised in Avalon, Mississippi, Hurt taught himself how to play the guitar around age nine. Singing in a loud whisper, to a melodious finger-picked accompaniment, he began to play local dances and parties while working as a sharecropper. He first recorded for Okeh Records in 1928, but these were commercial failures. Hurt then drifted out of the recording scene, and he continued his work as a farmer. A copy of one of his recordings, “Avalon Blues,” was later discovered. The title of which gave the location of his hometown and inspired a growth of interest in Hurt’s whereabouts. Tom Hoskins, a blues enthusiast, would be the first to locate Hurt in 1963. He convinced Hurt to relocate to Washington, D.C. where he was recorded by the Library of Congress in 1964.

His rediscovery helped further the American folk music revival,which had led to the rediscovery of many other bluesmen of Hurt’s era. Hurt entered the same university and coffeehouse concert circuit as his contemporaries, as well as other Delta blues musicians brought out of retirement. As well as playing concerts, he recorded several studio albums for Vanguard Records.

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