Author: Jas Obrecht
“John Hurt spent nearly all of his life in the whistle-stop farming community of Avalon, Mississippi. With his gentle, soothing voice and a beautifully syncopated fingerpicking guitar style, he created one of the most compelling country blues styles ever recorded. After making a handful of 78s, he faded from public view during the Depression and then arose phoenix-like during the 1960s, his considerable skills intact. Still fresh today, his inspiring recordings provide an aural passport to a bygone era of cakewalks and rags, ballads, and storytelling blues.
Hurt was 35 years old when he journeyed alone, a beat-up guitar and business card in hand, from the Mississippi hill country to Memphis for his first session. His first recording session took place on Valentine’s Day, 1928, and the experience was not entirely pleasant. Hurt remembered going into “a great big hall with only Mr. Rockwell, one engineer, and myself. I sat on a chair and they pushed the microphone right up close to my mouth, and told me not to move after they found the right position. Oh, I was nervous, and my neck was sore for days after.” Several songs were cut that day, but only a single OKeh 78 was issued from the session, “Nobody’s Dirty Business” backed by “Frankie,” one of his songs in open tuning. Hurt was paid about $20 per song, a good fee for unproven talent. The original Columbia file cards for the matrixes described them as “old time music,” but this was later changed to “race.”
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