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Mississippi Fred McDowell


Born onto a Tennessee farm in 1904, Mississippi Fred McDowell is the essence of the blues. You can hear the pain from his life in his guitar just as easily as his voice.

McDowell was largely unknown until Alan Lomax discovered him in 1959 when Lomax was preserving history through recordings.

McDowell learned to play the slide guitar with a knife, then moved to a beef rib bone, and ultimately acquired a glass slide. Truly one of the great slide guitarists ever, his effortless skill and precise expression on the guitar is unparalleled.

While he famously declared “I do not play no rock and roll,” McDowell was not averse to associating with many younger rock musicians. He coached Bonnie Raitt on slide guitar technique, and was reportedly flattered by The Rolling Stones’ rather straightforward, authentic version of his song “You Gotta Move” on their 1971 Sticky Fingers album.

McDowell is a defining persona in the development of Mississippi Delta blues, and was inducted into the Delta Blues Museum in Mississippi.