Honeyboy Edwards

Honeyboy Edwards - Shaw

David “Honeyboy” Edwards, born in Shaw in 1915, took to the road as a teenager accompanying Big Joe Williams and became a true “rambling” bluesman. Later Edwards traveled with other artists, including Robert Johnson. Edwards recorded blues for the Library of Congress and the Sun and Chess labels, but he is also revered for his colorful tales of the lives of early Delta bluesmen.

David Edwards, nicknamed “Honeyboy” by his sister, was born in Shaw on June 28, 1915. He started playing guitar at age twelve, learning from his father, Henry Edwards, and as a teenager from pioneer bluesmen including Tommy Johnson and Charley Patton. In 1932 bluesman Big Joe Williams took Edwards under his wing, teaching him valuable lessons about how to survive on the road. Edwards later traveled widely, often as a hobo on freight trains, skillfully avoiding arrests for vagrancy. He became a good gambler, and often played blues for tips until he made enough to enter games. Edwards described the life of the itinerant bluesman, relaying both its joys and difficulties, in his 1997 autobiography The World Don’t Owe Me Nothin’.

In 1937-38 Edwards worked with Robert Johnson and attended Johnson’s final performance in the Greenwood area in 1938, when Johnson was allegedly poisoned. Other artists he worked with in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Memphis included the Memphis Jug Band, Big Walter Horton, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller), Tommy McClennan, and Little Walter Jacobs.

In 1942 Alan Lomax of the Library of Congress recorded Edwards in Clarksdale, and in 1951 Edwards made his first commercial recordings in Houston, Texas, for the ARC label as “Mr. Honey.” He also recorded for the Sun and Chess labels in the ’50s, but the sessions were not issued until the 1970s. In 1956 Edwards settled with his wife in Chicago, where he found work as a laborer and performed with Big Walter, Carey Bell, and others. In 1969 he was a guest on an album by the British band Fleetwood Mac and over the subsequent decades recorded many albums on Folkways, Earwig and other labels. Edwards’s charming personality, storytelling skills, and memories of early blues artists were captured in the 2002 documentary Honeyboy, which included footage filmed in Shaw.

Most blues activity in Shaw over the years has been in juke joints such as the White House, the Riverside Inn, the One Minute, and Fox’s, although small local blues festivals have been held on occasion since the 1990s. Shaw was also the birthplace of Louis Satterfield (1937-2004), a prominent studio musician for Chess Records in Chicago and trombonist with the group Earth, Wind & Fire, and of Clarksdale guitarist and Delta Blues Museum educator Michael “Dr. Mike” James (b. 1965).

content © Mississippi Blues Commission

This marker was unveiled on April 13, 2007. Edwards, who was 96, passed away in Chicago on August 29, 2011.



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