Thursday, 11 August 2011


Today is the 45th anniversary of the death of Georgia's wonderful Peg Leg Howell. He died in Atlanta this day in 1966, aged 78. In my book Song & Dance Man III: The Art of Bob Dylan, when discussing the music that lay behind Chuck Berry songs such as 'Too Much Monkey Business' (which lies behind Dylan's 'Subterranean Homesick Blues', of course), I looked particularly at Peg Leg Howell's wonderful 'Coal Man Blues', recorded in Atlanta in 1926. It begins:

'Woke up this morning about five o’clock / Get me some eggs and a nice pork chop / Cheap cigar and a magazine / Had to run through the street to catch the 5.15!'

Peg Leg's real name was Joshua Barnes Howell, and he was born in 1888, so that he was one of those already almost 40 when he made his early recordings (he was Columbia’s first field-recorded rural singer). He was also one of those "rediscovered": he made one post-war LP, in 1963  -  which included a revisit to ‘Coal Man Blues’ (The Legendary Peg Leg Howell, Atlanta, Testament Records T-2204, Chicago, 1964).

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