Rory Block biography
Born in Princeton, NJ on November 6, 1949, Aurora Rory Block grew up in a Manhattan family with Bohemian leanings. Rory Block’s father owned a Greenwich Village sandal shop, where musicians like Bob Dylan, Maria Muldaur and John Sebastian all made occasional appearances. The rich and diverse Village scene was a constant influence on her cultural sensibilities. Rory Block was playing guitar by age ten, and by her early teens she was sitting in on the Sunday jam sessions in Washington Square Park. During these years, Rory Block’s life was touched – and profoundly changed – by personal encounters with some of the earliest and most influential Delta blues masters of the 20th century. Rory Block made frequent visits to the Bronx, where she learned her first lessons in blues and gospel music from the Reverend Gary Davis. Rory Block swapped stories and guitar licks with seminal bluesman Son House, Robert Johnson’s mentor. Rory Block visited Skip James in the hospital after his cancer surgery. Rory Block traveled to Washington, DC, to visit with Mississippi John Hurt and absorb first-hand his technique and his creativity. By the time Rory Block was in high school, her family had splintered in different directions. With nothing holding her down, she left home at 15 with her guitar and a few friends – heading for California on a trip marked by numerous detours and stops in small towns. Along the way, Rory Block picked her way through a vast catalog of country blues songs and took her first steps in developing a fingerpicking and slide guitar style that would eventually be her trademark. Rory Block recorded an instructional record called How To Play Blues Guitar in the mid-60s (she was billed as Sunshine Kate on the original recording), but then took a decade off from music to start a family. In the mid- and late ‘70s, she made a few records that ran counter to her inherent blues instincts. The result was a record deal with the Boston-based Rounder label, which released her High Heeled Blues in 1981. Back in a groove that felt comfortable and fulfilling, Block threw herself headlong into an ambitious touring schedule that helped hone her technical and vocal skills to a razor’s edge, and at the same time nurture a distinctive voice as a songwriter. Block stayed with Rounder for the next two decades, making records that simultaneously indulged her affinity for traditional country blues and served as a platform for her own formidable songwriting talents. The world finally started taking notice in the early 1990s, and Rory Block scored numerous awards throughout the decade. She brought home W.C. Handy Awards four years in a row – two for Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year, and two for Best Acoustic Blues Album of the Year. Her visibility overseas increased dramatically when Best Blues and Originals, fueled by the single Lovin’ Whiskey, went gold in parts of Europe. Block joins the Telarc label with the September 2003 release of Last Fair Deal, a mix of eight original tunes and six compelling covers of early blues and gospel songs.