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Guitar Gabriel


On 12/10/1925: Guitar Gabriel was born. He was born in Decatur, Georgia and his birth name was Robert Lewis Jones. At the age of five, his family moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. His father, Sonny James recorded for Vocalion Records in 1939 in Memphis, with Sonny Terry and Oh Red. Sonny also recorded for the Orchid Label in 1950 in Baltimore.
In 1935, Gabriel's family moved to Durham, North Carolina. There he would start to play the guitar on the streets. Between the age of 15 and 25, Gabriel played the guitar with medicine shows that toured the country. Whilst travelling he performed with artists like Bo Diddley, Lightnin' Hopkins, Louis Jordan, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, B. B. King, T-Bone Walker and Jimmy Reed.
In 1970, Gabriel recorded the single "Welfare Blues" and the album "My South, My Blues" for the Gemini label in Pittsburgh. The single was a success and the album also sold well. Gabriel would not receive any royalties, though.
Gabriel returned to Winston-Salem, disillusioned with the music business. He would continue to play music for the community in churches, homes and clubs.
In 1988, "My South, My Blues" was reissued on the french label Jambalaya.
In March 1990 musician and folklorist, Tim Duffy met Gabriel after Gabriel's nephew Hawkeye took him to meet him. Duffy and Gabriel became friends and formed an act called Guitar Gabriel & Brothers in the Kitchen. They recorded the album "Do You Know What it Means to Have a Friend?" on their own label Karibu. Duffy would also help Gabriel with transport and paying bills.
In 1994, Tim and his wife Denise Duffy formed the Music Maker Relief Foundation. With the help of the foundation, Gabriel was able to perform at professional venues, including the Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, as well as touring Europe.
On 02/04/1996 Gabriel died. He was buried with his guitar in Winston-Salem.