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Junior Kimbrough

“All Night Long”

Junior Kimbrough is one of those true blues artists who spent most of his life playing at his local juke joint. In fact, it wasn’t until he was 62 years old that he recorded his first album.

 Junior Kimbrough [spent] nearly his entire life in the Hill Country, born in nearby Hudsonville on July 28, 1930.  He was the son of sharecroppers and at an early age he would be left alone in the care of his older sister while the family tended the farm. Both his father and brother owned guitars, but they placed them where they believed they’d be secure from younger hands. [Kimbrough] was entranced by the sound of the guitar and he removed the instruments from their hiding places once the others had left for the day.  He had a natural gift, able to learn by ear.  Once he even claimed that if he had a thought for a song, all he would need to do was play it once and it would be committed to memory.  If he did not play it, then it was lost forever…

Greg Johnson, “Junior Kimbrough,” Cascade Blues Association.

The clip above is from “Deep Blues,” and is among the first known recordings of Kimbrough. It wasn’t until after this film that the blues world took notice (or could even find) Kimbrough in the first place, and soon after he had a recording contract. Kimbrough, famous for his haunting guitar and pain-stricken voice, serves as the quintessential example of North Mississippi Hill Country blues. Mississippi, a state mostly famous for its delta blues, was given a spokesman for the newly revealed talents from the north–especially after the Black Keys made an entire album (Chulahoma) entirely dedicated to Kimbrough’s work.

Unfortunately, Kimbrough died from a sudden heart attack in 1998. Two years later, his juke joint burned down. Kimbrough may have shuffled off his mortal coil, but his legacy lives on. His tombstone reads:

Junior Kimbrough is the beginning and the end of all music.