It’s the Yuletide month, and welcome to the first of a new series (and a new theme…like it?). This year, in lieu of the poll that nearly caused me a nervous breakdown last year, we will revisit the music that JP played for Christmas. First up is one that seemed to start most of his Festive programmes. Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins was born in Canterville, Texas in 1912, and after a meeting with Blind Lemon Jefferson, he felt that the blues was ingrained on his soul (and in fact it appears that he was the only person Jefferson would let play with him). A spell in prison in the thirties was followed by a move to Houston to attempt to break into the music scene, but it didn’t work out and he moved back to his hometown to work as a farmhand.
A second attempt at fame was more beneficial: he began to record for Aladdin in LA after the war, but grew homesick for Texas and moved back to Houston, recording shedloads of spellbinding blues for Gold Style, and after that for Sugarhill. His album A Riot In Blues featured the classic Merry Christmas, which was issued as a single in 1953 backed by another festive tune…but that’s for later on. His appearance alongside Pete Seeger and Joan Baez at Carnegie Hall cemented his burgeoning fame, and recognition was finally his after years of striving.
Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins, Merry Christmas