Sweet Home Chicago
David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards
Rest In Peace Honeyboy
This video footage of the then 94 year old blues guitarist David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards was filmed on September 30, 2009 at the Sheffield Boardwalk.
Edwards was born in Shaw, Mississippi. Edwards was 14 years old when he left home to travel with bluesman Big Joe Williams, beginning the life as an itinerant musician which he lead throughout the 1930s and 1940s. He performed with and was a friend of blues musician Robert Johnson. Honeyboy was present on the night Johnson drank poisoned whiskey which killed him, and his story has become the definitive version of Johnson’s demise. Edwards knew and played with many of the leading bluesmen in the Mississippi Delta: Charley Patton, Tommy Johnson, and Johnny Shines.
He described the itinerant bluesman’s life:
“On Saturday, somebody like me or Robert Johnson would go into one of these little towns, play for nickels and dimes. And sometimes, you know, you could be playin’ and have such a big crowd that it would block the whole street. Then the police would come around, and then I’d go to another town and where I could play at. But most of the time, they would let you play. Then sometimes the man who owned a country store would give us something like a couple of dollars to play on a Saturday afternoon. We could hitchhike, transfer from truck to truck, or if we couldn’t catch one of them, we’d go to the train yard, ’cause the railroad was all through that part of the country then…we might hop a freight, go to St. Louis or Chicago. Or we might hear about where a job was paying off – a highway crew, a railroad job, a levee camp there along the river, or some place in the country where a lot of people were workin’ on a farm. You could go there and play and everybody would hand you some money. I didn’t have a special place then. Anywhere was home. Where I do good, I stay. When it gets bad and dull, I’m gone.”
Folklorist Alan Lomax recorded Edwards in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1942 for the Library of Congress. Edwards recorded 15 album sides of music. The songs included “Wind Howlin’ Blues” and “The Army Blues”.He did not record again commercially until 1951, when he recorded “Who May Be Your Regular Be” for Arc Records under the name of Mr Honey. Edwards claims to have written several well-known blues songs including “Long Tall Woman Blues” and “Just Like Jesse James”. His discography for the 1950s and 1960s amounts to nine songs from seven sessions. From 1974 to 1977, he recorded material for a full length LP, I’ve Been Around, released in 1978 on the independent Trix Records label by producer/ethnomusicologist Peter B. Lowry.
Edwards authored the book, The World Don’t Owe Me Nothin’, published in 1997 by Chicago Review Press. The book recounts his life from childhood, his journeys through the South and his arrival in Chicago in the early 1950s. A companion CD by the same title was released by Earwig Music shortly afterwards. His long association with Earwig Music and Michael Frank spawned many late career albums on a variety of independent labels from the 1980s on. He has also recorded at a church-turned-studio in Salina, Kansas and released albums on the APO record label. Edwards continued the rambling life he describes in his autobiography as he still toured the world well into his 90s.
On July 17, 2011, his Manager Michael Frank announced that Edwards would be retiring due to ongoing health issues.
Edwards died at his home on 29 August 2011, of congestive heart failure, at around 3 a.m.