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Brownie McGhee  biography

Born: November 30, 1915, Knoxville, Tennessee

Died: February 23, 1996, Oakland, California

Also known as: Walter McGhee

Brownie McGhee played blues guitar in a style that was heavily influenced by Blind Boy Fuller, a North Carolina native whose repertoire included a complicated finger picking style characteristic of a regional genre known as Piedmont blues. Early in his career, McGhee worked as a traveling performer. When he made it to North Carolina he met Blind Boy Fuller and his manager, J.B. Long, and it was Long who helped McGhee make his first recordings. McGhee later moved to New York where he teamed up with harmonica player Sonny Terry. With the help of legendary singer/songwriter Lead Belly, McGhee and Terry became an important part of the city’s folk scene, working with such artists as Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. As a duo they were enormously popular performers and prolific recording artists for almost four decades. McGhee also opened a music school in Harlem where he offered guitar lessons. Both individually and in his partnership with Sonny Terry, McGhee had a lasting influence on both blues and folk. He was an accomplished and versatile guitarist and vocalist whose mastery as a musician included R&B, electric blues and vintage country blues, in addition to the Piedmont style he helped preserve.