An American blues guitarist and vocalist.
The day of his birth has also been debated. The most common date given is January 20, but other sources suggest he was born on January 21 or 29.
The only document of Ledbetter, himself, helped fill out is his World War II draft registration from 1942 where he gives his birth date as January 23, 1889.
he received his first instrument, an accordion, from his uncle, and by his early 20s, after fathering at least two children, he left home to find his living as a guitarist and occasionally, as a laborer.
Influenced by the sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912, he would go on to write the song "The Titanic"
He first played it in 1912 when performing with Blind Lemon Jefferson (1897-1929) in and around Dallas, Texas. Lead Belly noted that he had to leave out the verse about boxer Jack Johnson when playing before a white audience.
Lead Belly's volatile temper sometimes led him into trouble with the law. In 1915 he was convicted "of carrying a pistol" and sentenced to do time on the Harrison County chain gang.
In January 1918 he was imprisoned a second time, this time after killing one of his relatives.
In 1918 he was incarcerated in Sugar Land, Texas, where he probably learned the song "Midnight Special".
In 1925 he was pardoned and released, having served seven years, or virtually all of the minimum of his seven-to-35-year sentence, after writing a song appealing to Governor Pat Morris Neff for his freedom.
He was a prominent recorder in the fifties inspiring artists in the sixties through to the seventies and on to copy his style of playing or at least learning some of his tricks.
He brought folk and blues to the fore front of music in the sixties.
He is said to have sung songs that go back to the slave days playing with his mentor Blind Lemon Jefferson .
Bob Dylan once remarked, on his XM radio show, that Lead Belly was "One of the few ex-cons who recorded a popular children’s album."
Main book published about him was in 1936.
The songs are not known if he wrote them or just remembered them, one cannot be sure.
Lead Belly died later that year in New York City.
LEAD BELLY’S LIBRARY OF CONGRESS RECORDINGS - 1950
LEADBELLY’S LAST SESSION - 1953
LEADBELLY’S LAST SESSION Vol 2 - 1953
LEADBELLY SINGS FOLK SONGS - 1968
LEADBELLY - 1969
LEADBELLY - 1973
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