“I don’t want the old blues to die – if they do, I’ll be dead, too”: John Lennon, Eric Clapton and Ronnie Wood all followed in the footsteps of Big Bill Broonzy, the blues pioneer with a guitar style that’s impossible to copy

Big Bill Broonzy
(Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

It’s worth remembering that not all musicians had influence during their lifetimes. For example, Robert Johnson, as iconic as he is now, died in obscurity with his incredible music only making an impact decades after his death when his recordings were rediscovered as the ‘blues revival’ gained traction in Europe.

Of those who did have an influence at the time, William ‘Big Bill’ Broonzy stands tall. Even now, 65 years after his passing, Broonzy continues to influence blues musicians as much as he does folk, country and jazz artists – just as he did way back in the 1920s when his powerful voice and guitar was first unleashed on the record-buying world. 

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Denny Ilett

Denny Ilett has been a professional guitarist, bandleader, teacher and writer for nearly 40 years. Specializing in Jazz and Blues, Denny has played all over the world with New Orleans artist Lillian Boutté. Also an experienced teacher, Denny regularly contributes to JTC and Guitarist magazine and is founder of the Electric Lady Big Band, a 16-piece ensemble playing new arrangements of the music of Jimi Hendrix. Denny has also worked with funk maestro Pee Wee Ellis and is the co-founder of Bristol Jazz & Blues festival.