10 Musicians Who Committed Real Crimes, Did Real Time - And Had Real Impact

9. Son House

Eddie ‘Son’ House has one of the most amazing life stories in music history. Born in 1902, the man who Jack White reckons was the true embodiment of the spirit of the blues started out as a preacher in Louisiana and Mississippi from age 15 - in between doing various other odd jobs to make ends meet. In those days he made a point of not singing the blues, later saying in 1964, “I can’t hold God in one hand and the Devil in the other. Them two guys don’t get along together too well.”

He went on to say, however, that he had “to turn one of ‘em loose” and so gave up the religious life, seduced first by the sound of bottleneck guitar, and then by drinking, women and wild parties. It was during one such party in 1928 that he shot and killed Leroy Lee. He was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years at the aforementioned Parchman Farm. House was released early, but warned never to come back to the town. By luck he then fell in with the great Charley Patton but, despite mentoring Robert Johnson and inspiring Muddy Waters, he remained in relative obscurity.

Even recordings he made with Alan Lomax in 1940 did not break him through, and he gave up on music. In 1955 he nearly fell foul of the law once more after killing a man in self-defense in a Long Island labor camp. This time he was acquitted and finally got his shot in 1964 when he was ‘rediscovered’ by a freelance journalist, Dick Waterman, and two companions. The bluesman wound up touring Europe in his late sixties, and recorded unforgettable songs which reflect his amazing life such as Preachin’ The Blues, John The Revelator and Levee Camp Moan while his number My Black Mama became the template for Robert Johnson’s Walking Blues and Muddy Waters’ Country Blues amongst other songs. Not for nothing is Son House known as the 'Father of the Delta Blues'.

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Freelance writer, music reviewer and musician from Glasgow, Scotland.