Peetie Wheatstraw biography
Peetie Wheatstraw Born: December 21, 1902, Ripley, Tennessee
Died: December 21, 1941, East St. Louis, Illinois
Also known as: William Bunch
Peetie Wheatstraw began performing in 1929, the year of the Great Depression, and enjoyed enormous popularity in spite of the devastating economic conditions and lulls in the careers of other artists. He was a talented songwriter and commonly addressed rather dark themes — the supernatural, death, sex and addiction — yet his music was uplifting due to his witty lyrics and the wide range and expressive, buoyant quality of his vocal delivery. His juxtaposition of dark themes with a message to appreciate life is perhaps partly why his music was so surprisingly successful during such trying times. Wheatstraw was primarily a piano player and worked with excellent guitarists, including Kokomo Arnold and Lonnie Johnson; he and Johnson were a recording and performing team for 10 years. He reportedly took his name from an “evil twin” character from black folk tales, and during his career he was also nicknamed “The Devil’s Son-in Law” and the “High Sheriff of Hell.” Wheatstraw died while celebrating his 39th birthday when, reportedly, he and his buddies tried, and failed, to beat a speeding train.
Peetie Wheatstraw on record
Essential listening: “Suicide Blues,” “You Can’t Stop Me From Drinking,” “The Devil’s Son-in-Law” “Peetie Wheatstraw Stomp”