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Mississippi John Hurt

Background information
Birth name John Smith Hurt
Born July 3, 1893(1893-07-03) or March 8, 1892(1892-03-08)
Teoc, Carroll County, Mississippi, United States
Origin Avalon, Mississippi
Died November 2, 1966
Grenada, Mississippi
Genres Blues, Folk music, Country music
Years active 1928, 1963 – 1966
Labels Okeh Records
Vanguard Records

Mississippi John Hurt (July 3, 1893[1][2] or March 8, 1892[3] — November 2, 1966) was an influential country blues singer and guitarist.[4] He sang in a loud whisper, to a melodious finger-picked guitar accompaniment.[5]



Born John Smith Hurt in Teoc,[6] Carroll County, Mississippi and raised in Avalon, Mississippi, Hurt learned to play guitar at age 9. He spent much of his youth playing old time music for friends and dances, earning a living as a farm hand into the 1920s.[7] In 1923 he partnered with the fiddle player Willie Narmour as a substitute for his regular partner Shell Smith.[7] When Narmour got a chance to record for Okeh Records as a prize for winning first place in a 1928 fiddle contest, Narmour recommended John Hurt to Okeh Records producer Tommy Rockwell. After auditioning "Monday Morning Blues" at his home, he took part in two recording sessions, in Memphis and New York City (see Discography below).[7] The "Mississippi" tag was added by Okeh as a sales gimmick. After the commercial failure of the resulting records, and Okeh Records going out of business during the Great Depression, Hurt returned to Avalon and obscurity, working as a sharecropper and playing local parties and dances.[5]

In 1963, however, a folk musicologist, Tom Hoskins, inspired by the recordings, was able to locate Hurt near Avalon, Mississippi.[8] Seeing that Hurt's guitar playing skills were still intact, Hoskins encouraged him to move to Washington, D.C., and begin performing on a wider stage. His performance at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival saw his star rise amongst the new folk revival audience.[5] Before his death he played extensively in colleges, concert halls, coffee houses and also on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, as well as recording three further albums for Vanguard Records.[5] Much of his repertoire was recorded for the Library of Congress, also. The numbers his devotees particularly liked were the ragtime songs "Salty Dog" and "Candy Man", and the blues ballads "Spike Driver Blues" (a variant of "John Henry") and "Frankie".[5]

Hurt's influence spanned several music genres including blues, country, bluegrass, folk and contemporary rock and roll. A soft-spoken man, his nature was reflected in the work, which remained a mellow mix of country, blues and old time music to the end.[7]

Hurt died in November 1966 from a heart attack in Grenada, Mississippi.[9]


There is now a memorial in Avalon, Mississippi for Mississippi John Hurt. It is parallel to RR2, which is the rural road on which he grew up.

American singer-songwriter Tom Paxton, who met Hurt and played on the same bill as him at the Gaslight in Greenwich Village around 1963, wrote and recorded a song about him in 1977 entitled "Did You Hear John Hurt?" Paxton still frequently plays this song at his live performances.

John Fahey (musician) in 1968 wrote the album Requia on which the first track is entitled Requiem For John Hurt. Fahey's posthumous live album The Great Santa Barbara Oil Slick also features a version of the song, entitled slightly differently as Requiem For Mississippi John Hurt.

Pat The Bunny of Wingnut Dishwashers Union regularly performs a cover or Ain't Nobody's Business



Avalon Blues: The Complete 1928 Okeh Recordings

  1. "Frankie" (3:21) February 24, 1928, Memphis
  2. "Nobody's Dirty Business" (2:52) February 24, 1928, Memphis
  3. "Ain't No Tellin'" (2:54) December 21, 1928, New York City
  4. "Louis Collins" (2:57) December 21, 1928, New York City
  5. "Avalon Blues" (3:01) December 21, 1928, New York City
  6. "Big Leg Blues" (2:50) December 21, 1928, New York City
  7. "Stack O' Lee" (2:55) December 28, 1928, New York City
  8. "Candy Man Blues" (2:44) December 28, 1928, New York City
  9. "Got The Blues (Can't Be Satisfied)" (2:49) December 28, 1928, New York City
  10. "Blessed Be The Name" (2:46) December 28, 1928, New York City
  11. "Praying On The Old Camp Ground" (2:35) December 28 1928, New York City
  12. "Blue Harvest Blues" (2:51) December 28, 1928 New York City
  13. "Spike Driver Blues" (3:13) December 28, 1928 New York City


(VSD-79220, Vanguard Records)

Side 1

Side 2

  • "Coffee Blues"
  • "Louis Collins"
  • "Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight"
  • "If You Don't Want Me, Baby"
  • "Spike Driver Blues"[10]
  • "Beulah Land"

Last Sessions


  1. "Poor Boy, Long Ways From Home"
  2. "Boys, You're Welcome"
  3. "Joe Turner Blues"
  4. "First Shot Missed Him"
  5. "Farther Along"
  6. "Funky Butt"
  7. "Spider, Spider"
  8. "Waiting For You"
  9. "Shortnin' Bread"
  10. "Trouble, I've Had It All My Days"
  11. "Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me"
  12. "Good Morning, Carrie"
  13. "Nobody Cares For Me"
  14. "All Night Long"
  15. "Hey, Honey, Right Away"
  16. "You've Got To Die"
  17. "Goodnight Irene"

Worried Blues

(Piedmont PLP 13161, Piedmont Records)

Side 1

  • "Lazy Blues"
  • "Farther along"
  • "Sliding delta"
  • "Nobody Cares for Me"
  • "Cow Hooking Blues"

Side 2

  • "Talkin’ Casey Jones"
  • "Weeping and Wailing"
  • "Worried Blues"
  • "Oh Mary Don’t You Weep"
  • "I Been Cryin’ Since You Been Gone"

The Best of Mississippi John Hurt

(VSD-19/20, Vanguard Records) Recorded live at Oberlin College, April 15, 1966

Side 1

  • "Here I am, Oh Lord, Send Me"
  • "I Shall Not Be Moved"
  • "Nearer My God to Thee"
  • "Baby What's Wrong with You"
  • "It Ain't Nobody's Business"

Side 2

Side 1

  • "Sliding Delta"
  • "Monday Morning Blues"
  • "Richland Women Blues"
  • "Candy Man"
  • "Stagolee"

Side 2

The Candy Man

(QS 5042, Quicksilver Records)

Side 1

  • "Richland Women Blues"
  • "Trouble, I've Had it All My Days"
  • "Chicken"
  • "Coffee Blues"
  • "Monday Morning Blues"

Side 2

  • "Frankie and Albert"
  • "Talking Casey"
  • "Here I am, Oh Lord, Send Me"
  • "Hard Time in the Old Ttown Tonight"
  • "Spike Driver Blues"[10]

Volume One of a Legacy

(CLPS 1068, Piedmont Records)

Side 1

  • "Trouble, I've Had it All My Days"
  • "Pera Lee"
  • "See See Rider"
  • "Louis Collins"
  • "Coffee Blues"
  • "Nobody's Dirty Business"
  • "Do Lord Remember Me"
  • "Monday Morning Blues"

Side 2

  • "Let The Mermaids Flirt with Me"
  • "Payday"
  • "Stack-o-lee Blues"
  • "Casey Jones"
  • "Frankie and Albert"

Folk Songs and Blues

(PLP 13757, Piedmont Records)

Side 1

  • "Avalon Blues"
  • "Richland Woman Blues"
  • "Spike Driver Blues"[10]
  • "Salty Dog"
  • "Cow Hooking Blues"
  • "Spanish Fandang"

Side 2

  • "Casey Jones"
  • "Louis Collins"
  • "Candy Man Blues"
  • "My Creole Belle"
  • "Liza Jane – God's Unchanging Hand"
  • "Joe Turner Blues"


  1. ^ National Park Service
  2. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica
  3. ^ There is confusion about his date of birth, but the grave marker mentions this date.
  4. ^ "Trail of the Hellhound: Mississippi John Hurt". Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues - From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. pp. 121. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 
  6. ^ Lawrence Cohen 1996, inteview with John Hurt, liner notes, Avalon Blues: The Complete 1928 Okeh Recordings, Columbia/Legacy
  7. ^ a b c d "Biography by Bruce Eder".|JOHN|HURT&sql=11:wifuxq95ldke~T1. Retrieved May 30, 2009. 
  8. ^ Tom Hoskins was able to find Mississippi John Hurt after listening to the lyrics of "Avalon Blues" and realizing it was written about a place called Avalon, rather than the Avalon of myth. Unable to find Avalon on a recent map, Hoskins searched older and older maps and eventually found it on an atlas from 1878 between Greenwood and Grenada
  9. ^ - accessed May 2009
  10. ^ a b c Spike Driver's Blues is about the Afro-American folk hero John Henry.

External links


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