Sunday, July 8, 2012

Blues From Elmo - Henry Qualls

Born July 8, 1934, Cedar Grove, Elmo, Texas, USA, d. 7 December 2003. Probably the last elder statesmen of Texas blues, it fell to individuals such as Qualls to carry the mantle, in a less than competent way, a tradition that has all but succumbed to the passage of time. While performing songs first recorded by artists such as Lightnin’ Hopkins and Lil Son Jackson, his faltering guitar technique, including a very wayward slide style, was more reminiscent of Willie ‘Smokey’ Hogg, an artist who built a reputation on his incapacity to observe the formalities of 12-bar blues. Taught as a youth by Emmitt Williams, Qualls supplemented his instruction by making regular visits to Dallas to watch Hopkins, Jackson and Frankie Lee Sims in action. Through most of his adult life, music was an intermittent hobby as he earned his living ploughing fields and mowing the lawns of the Dallas √©lite. Found by Dallas Blues Society men Scottie Ferris and Chuck Nevitt, Qualls became a reluctant local celebrity. His album contained the expected material from the Hopkins and Jackson songbooks, along with Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup’s ‘Death Valley Blues’ and fumbled versions of ‘Motherless Children’ and ‘I Shall Not Be Moved’. The touchstone of his importance as a Texas bluesman was his ability to place the Newbeats’ ‘Bread And Butter’ alongside Lowell Fulson’s ‘Reconsider Baby’.
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