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The Bluesmen: Blind Willie McTell

The Bluesmen: Blind Willie McTell

Friday, Mar 06, 2015 by MarksCarts *

audio Listen to Blind Willie McTell

"Blind Willie McTell" (May 5, 1898 – August 19, 1959) was a bluesman who was born and worked primarily in the state of Georgia. His birth name was William Samuel McTier, and he was reportedly born blind in one eye with some small ability to perceive light in the second eye. He could literally have described himself as "blind in one eye and can't see out of the other". The young man lost the last vestige of sight by puberty, but like several other blind youth through the ages he found a means of productivity in the field of music. Willie attended schools for the blind and learned to read and write music in Braille. He began at a young age playing harmonica and accordian, progressed to the guitar in his teens, and later in his career played the 12-string almost exclusively, which was fairly unusual for a Piedmont blues player.

Willie became a major musical figure with a local following in Atlanta from the 1920s onward. He recorded dozens of sides throughout the '30s under a multitude of names - "Blind Willie", "Blind Sammie", "Hot Shot Willie", "Georgia Bill" - God only knows how many pseudonyms he may have used. McTier is most widely known today simply as Blind Willie McTell.

Willie played with a fingerpicking style, as well as occasional slide, both of which, again, were unusual for a 12-string guitar player, and which no doubt greatly contributed to his unique sound and popularity. Much of his music is generally classified as ragtime and Piedmont blues. He worked medicine shows, carnivals, and other outdoor venues, and was a popular attraction, owing to his fingerpicking and slide dexterity and a nasal singing voice that could sound either pleasant or mournful.

McTell has been an inspiration for countless musicians through the years. One of his most enduring songs is Statesboro Blues, which was covered by The Allman Brother's Band. Bob Dylan paid homage to Blind Willie on numerous occasions, making a reference to "Georgia Bill" in his song, Highway 61 Revisited, as well as covering several McTell songs, and most notably, in his song, Blind Willie McTell.

Blind Willie McTell Song Archive

This site contains a playlist of about 50 of Blind Willie McTell's recordings, so be sure to listen to this incomparable catalog of acoustic blues.

Acoustic Blues Music Educational Program

I invite you to listen freely and enjoy these 50 early tracks recorded by Blind Willie McTell, and contribute to this site by transcribing the lyrics and sending them to me for addition to the Blind Willie McTell music collection here.

audio Listen to Blind Willie McTell

* Originally published Saturday, Feb 28, 2015, last updated on Friday, Mar 06, 2015


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