Eddie James "Son" House, Jr. (March 21, 1902 – October 19, 1988) was an American blues singer and guitarist. House pioneered an innovative style featuring strong, repetitive rhythms, often played with the aid of slide guitar, and his singing often incorporated elements of southern gospel and spiritual music.
House did not learn guitar until he was in his early twenties, as he had been "churchified", and was determined to become a Baptist preacher. He associated himself with Delta blues musicians Charlie Patton and Willie Brown, often acting as a sideman. In 1930, House made his first recordings for Paramount Records during a session for Charlie Patton. However, these did not sell well due to the Great Depression, and he drifted into obscurity. He was recorded by John and Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress in 1941 and '42. Afterwards, he moved north to Rochester, New York, where he remained until his rediscovery in 1964, spurred by the American folk blues revival. Over the next few years, House recorded several studio albums and went on various tours until his death in 1988. His influence has extended over a wide area of musicians, including Robert Johnson, John Hammond, Alan Wilson (of Canned Heat), Bonnie Raitt, The White Stripes, and John Mooney.
The middle of three brothers, House was born in Riverton, two miles from Clarksdale, Mississippi. Around age seven or eight, he was brought by his mother to Tallulah, Louisiana, after his parents separated. The young Son House was determined to become a Baptist preacher, and at age 15 began his preaching career. Despite the church's firm stand against blues music and the sinful world which revolved around it, House became attracted to it and taught himself guitar in his mid 20s, after moving back to the Clarksdale area, inspired by the work of Willie Wilson.
After killing a man, allegedly in self-defense, he spent time at the Mississippi State Penitentiary (Parchman Farm) in 1928 and 1929. The official story on the killing is that sometime around 1927 or 1928, he was playing in a juke joint when a man went on a shooting spree. Son was wounded in the leg, and shot the man dead. He received a 15-year sentence at Parchman Farm prison, of which he served two years. He then moved to Lula, Mississippi, where he first met Charlie Patton and Willie Brown (around this same time, he also met Robert Johnson). The three began playing alongside each other during local gigs.
In 1930, Art Laibly of Paramount Records traveled to Lula to convince Patton to record several more sides in Grafton, Wisconsin. Along with Patton came House, Brown, and pianist Louise Johnson, who would all end up recording sides for the label. House recorded nine songs during that session, eight of which were released; but these were commercial failures, and House would not record again commercially in 35 years. House continued to play with Patton and Brown, even after Patton's death in 1934. During this time, House worked as a tractor driver for various plantations around the Lake Comororant area.
Alan Lomax first recorded House for the Library of Congress in 1941. Willie Brown, mandolin player Fiddlin' Joe Martin, and harmonica player Leroy Williams played with House on these recordings. Lomax returned to the area in 1942, where he recorded House once more. He then faded from the public view, moving to Rochester, New York in 1943, working as a railroad porter for the New York Central Railroad and as a chef.
1964, after a long search of the Mississippi Delta region by Nick Perls, Dick Waterman and Phil Spiro, he ended up being "rediscovered" in Rochester, NY. House had been retired from the music business for many years, and was completely unaware of the 60s Blues Revival and international enthusiasm regarding his early recordings.
He subsequently toured extensively in the US and Europe and recorded for CBS records. Like Mississippi John Hurt, he was welcomed into the music scene of the 1960s and played at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964, the New York Folk Festival in July 1965, and the October 1967 European tour of the American Folk Festival along with Skip James and Bukka White.
The young guitarist Alan Wilson (Canned Heat) was one of Son House's biggest fans. The producer John Hammond Sr. asked Alan Wilson, who was just 22 years old, to teach "Son House how to play like Son House," because Alan Wilson had such a good knowledge of the blues styles. The album The Father of Delta Blues - The Complete 1965 Sessions was the result. Son House played with Alan Wilson live. It can be heard on the album John the Revelator: The 1970 London Sessions.
In the summer of 1970, House toured Europe once again, including an appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival; a recording of his London concerts was released by Liberty Records. He also played at the 2 Days of Blues Festival in Toronto in 1974.
Ill health plagued his later years and in 1974 he retired once again, and later moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he remained until his death from cancer of the larynx. He was buried at the Mt. Hazel Cemetery. Members of the Detroit Blues Society raised money through benefit concerts to put a fitting monument on his grave. He had been married five times.
Eddie James House, Jr. (21 de marzo de 1902 – 19 de octubre de 1988), más conocido como Son House, fue un guitarrista y cantante estadounidense de blues.
House nació en Riverton, localidad cercana a Clarksdale, Misisipi, siendo el hermano mediano de 17. A los ocho años de edad, y tras la separación de sus padres, se trasladó a Tallulah, Luisiana, junto a su madre. Durante su adolescencia, quiso convertirse en un predicador bautista, iniciándose a los quince años. Inspirado por el trabajo de Willie Wilson, House se vio atraído por el blues, a pesar de la oposición de la Iglesia acerca de este estilo musical por los pecados que lo rodeaban, comenzando a tocar la guitarra a mediados de la década de 1920. Trabajó hasta 1942 en Robinsonville, Misisipi, con músicos como Charley Patton, Willie Brown, Robert Johnson, Fiddlin' Joe Martin y Leroy Williams.
Tras asesinar a un hombre, en supuesta defensa propia, pasó un tiempo en la Prisión del Estado de Misisipi, durante los años 1928 y 1929.
Son House realizó grabaciones en 1930 para la compañía discográfica Paramount Records y para Alan Lomax (perteneciente a la Biblioteca del Congreso) en 1941 y 1942. Posteriormente desapareció de la escena musical hasta la década de 1960 (periodo caracterizado por el resurgir del country blues), cuando, tras una búsqueda iniciada por Nick Perls, Dick Waterman y Phil Spiro en la región del Delta del Misisipi, fue "redescubierto" en 1964 en Rochester, Nueva York, localidad en la que vivía desde 1943;
House estaba retirado de la escena musical y trabajaba para la New York Central Railroad, siendo completamente ajeno al entusiamo internacional que reinaba por la reeedición de sus primeras grabaciones. Debido a ello, inició una serie de giras musicales por Estados Unidos y Europa, realizado grabaciones para la compañía CBS. Al igual que Mississippi John Hurt, actuó en el Newport Folk Festival en 1964, en el New York Folk Festival de 1965, en la gira europea del verano de 1970 junto a Skip James y Bukka White y en el Festival de Jazz de Montreux de ese mismo año.
Los últimos años de su vida estuvieron caracterizados por la enfermedad, volviendo a retirarse de la escena musical en 1974 trasladándose a Detroit, Michigan, lugar donde residiría hasta su fallecimiento debido a un cáncer de laringe. Fue enterrado en el Mt. Hazel Cemetery. Los miembros de la Sociedad de Blues de Detroit, realizaron una serie de conciertos benéficos para recaudar dinero con el fin de construir una estatua en la tumba de Son House.
El estilo musical innovador de House se caracteriza por utilizar ritmos fuertes, marcados y repetitivos, junto a una forma de cantar que recuerda los lamentos de las chain gang (grupos de prisioneros). House influenció ampliamente a Muddy Waters y Robert Johnson, siendo este último el que llevaría la música de House a otras audiencias; fue precisamente House quien, en una conversación con admiradores en la década de 1960, expandió la leyenda de que Johnson había vendido su alma al diablo a cambio de poder tocar la guitarra de forma magistral. House ha influenciado a músicos actuales como White Stripes, quienes realizaron una versión de su canción "Death Letter" en el disco "De Stijl", interpretando dicha canción en la ceremonia de entrega de los premios Grammy de 2004. Los White Stripes también incorporaron secciones de la canción tradicional de Son House "John the Revelator" en la canción "Cannon" de su disco "The White Stripes".