Mississippi John Hurt
Mississippi John Hurt was born on 08/03/1893 in Teoc, Carroll County, Mississippi, possibly. Other sources cite 03/03/1892 as his date of birth. His full birth name was John Smith Hurt. He was raised in Avalon, Mississippi. At the age of 9, Hurt taught himself how to play the guitar. He would stealthily play the guitar of a friend of his mother's. Hurt worked as a sharecropper into the 1920s. In his spare time, he began playing at dances and parties. His style was to sing to a fast syncopated fingerpicked guitar accompaniment. He was once offered to join a medicine show, but Hurt did not want to leave home.
In 1923, Hurt played with the fiddle player Willie Narmour instead of his regular partner Shell Smith.
In 1928, Narmour won a fiddle contest and was given the chance to record for Okeh Records. Narmour recommended Hurt to Okeh producer Tommy Rockwell. After auditioning the song "Monday Morning Blues" at his home, Hurt had two recording session in Memphis and New York. Whilst in Memphis, Hurt saw various blues singers such as Lonnie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Bessie Smith and more. Hurt tried to record with Okeh again and entered negotiations, but the records were commercial failures. Okeh then went out of business during the Great Depression. Hurt returned to Avalon and worked as a sharecropper. He would still perform at local parties and dances.
In 1952, Hurt's recordings of "Frankie" and "Spike Driver Blues" were included in "The Anthology of American Folk Music". A copy of "Avalon Blues" was also discovered by an Australian man. The two events sparked a search for Hurt.
In 1963, folk musicologist Tom Hoskins, supervised by Richard Spottswood found Hurt near Avalon, Mississippi. They had been guided by the lyrics of "Avalon Blues" which included the phrase "Avalon, my home town always on my mind ' Avalon, my home town". Hoskins persuaded Hurt to perform several songs for him. After seeing that it was genuinely John Hurt and that he was still an accomplished musician, Hoskins persuaded him to move to Washington D.C to perform in front of bigger crowds. That year, Hurt performed at the Newport Folk Festival. It would increase his popularity, occurring at the same time as the folk revival. He would go to perform at colleges, concert halls and he also appeared on the tv show "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson".
Hurt would record three albums with Vanguard Records. A lot of his repertoire was also recorded for the Library of Congress.
On 02/11/1966, Hurt died of a heart attack in a hospital in Grenada, Mississippi.
There is a memorial to Hurt in Avalon, Mississippi.