His underrated guitar playing influenced everyone from the Beatles to Nirvana – here's how Lead Belly used his 12-string skills to play his way out of prison

Lead Belly, pictured at a recording session in the 1940s
(Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

To modern audiences, Huddie Ledbetter (aka Lead Belly) is a bit of a mythical figure, probably best-known for a performance that occurred almost half a century after his death.

Nirvana's Kurt Cobain was so moved by the power of Lead Belly's rendition of the folk song, Where Did You Sleep Last Night, that he chose to cover the tune with his band as the closing number of their now-legendary MTV Unplugged set

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.