Delta Bluesman "Honeyboy" Edwards, a Direct Link to Robert Johnson, Dies at Age 96

Grammy-winning bluesman David "Honeyboy" Edwards, whose retirement was recently reported on, died 3 a.m. Monday, August 29, at his home in Chicago. He was 96.

Edwards had a weak heart, and his health declined in May, when he had to cancel shows scheduled through November.

Edwards, a legitimate Delta blues pioneer, made pre-World War II recordings and was a close associate of Robert Johnson.

He was born in Shaw, Mississippi, in 1915 and left home at age 14 to travel and perform with Big Joe Williams. By age 17, he was playing professionally in Memphis.

Edwards' recording career started in 1942, when folklorist Alan Lomax recorded him in Clarksdale, Mississippi, for the Library of Congress.

He came to Chicago in the 1940s, and by the 1950s, Edwards had played with almost every big-name bluesman, including Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Charlie Patton and Muddy Waters.

Edwards played his last shows in April at the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale.

"Robert [Johnson] was a funny kind of musician," Edwards told Guitar World earlier this year (The interview appears in the April 2011 issue). "He never did talk too much. He didn't do a lot of cussin' like a lot of musicians did. He was easygoin'. He played his music, and he drank and he liked his women. I never heard him cussin' and hollerin' like the other guys did. He was a nice guy. Kinda quiet, but he just had his ways, you know.

"Robert was the only guitar player with a little different style than all the other guys had," Edwards said. "'Cause he had the turnaround to his blues. The turnaround is when you have a solo in betwixt the verses. You stoppin' to have a solo. But all the rest of the guys, like Tommy Johnson and them, they had a little short time. Wasn't enough for you to pay attention to. So Robert had a different style than the other blues players."

Edwards was known for his far-ranging travels and played around the world. In his 90s, he was playing about 70 shows a year.

Here's Edwards' 1942 Library of Congress recording of "Spread My Raincoat Down":

Here's Edward's 1951 recording of "Who May Your Regular Be":

Scenes from a 2004 documentary film, Lightnin' In A Bottle:

Here's Edwards performing recently at WBEZ Chicago Public Radio:

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Damian Fanelli
Editor-in-Chief, Guitar World

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas, was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron, a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums. He now plays in two NYC-area bands.