Talkin' Blues with Keith Wyatt: The “Unplugged” Artistry of Snooks Eaglin, New Orleans’ Best Kept Secret
These videos and audio files are bonus content related to the July 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar World Online Store.
The roll call of top-tier New Orleans musicians from the 20th century is loaded with horn and piano players, but when it comes to guitarists, only a few names—including Lonnie Johnson, Guitar Slim, Earl King and Leo Nocentelli—are consistently recognized. However, there is one more Crescent City guitar player that unquestionably belongs among them: Snooks Eaglin.
Born in New Orleans in 1936, Eaglin lost his sight to glaucoma soon after his first birthday. He began learning guitar at age five by copying songs from the radio and records, and at 14 he dropped out of school to devote his life to music.
For the next decade, he worked steadily in clubs and on sessions until he made his solo recording debut, in 1959, with New Orleans Street Singer, an eclectic album that revealed Eaglin to be a vocalist and acoustic guitarist with few equals.
Drawing on a huge repertoire—he claimed to know 2,500 songs, ranging from New Orleans staples to country, R&B, blues, folk and jazz standards—he seamlessly integrated accompaniment patterns with solos that often included astonishing bursts of virtuosity.
Snooks’ percussive, bare-fingered attack was augmented by flamenco rasgueado technique (fanning the strings with the backs of the fingernails), an effect that he highlighted on his signature instrumentals “High Society” and “Funky Malagueña.”