SCRAPPER BLACKWELL BIOGRAPHY
Scrapper Blackwell (February 21, 1903 – October 7, 1962) was an American blues guitarist and singer.Best known as half of the guitar-piano duo he formed with Leroy Carr in the late 1920s and early 1930s, he was an acoustic single-note picker in the Chicago blues style, with some critics noting that he veered towards jazz.
Blackwell was born Francis Hillman Blackwell in Syracuse, North Carolina as one of the 16 children of Payton and Elizabeth Blackwell. Part Cherokee, he grew up and spent most of his life in Indianapolis, Indiana. His father played the fiddle, but Blackwell was a self-taught guitarist, building his first guitar out of cigar boxes, wood and wire. He also learned the piano, occasionally playing professionally. By his teens, Blackwell was a part-time musician, traveling as far as Chicago. Known for being withdrawn and hard to work with, Blackwell established a rapport with pianist Leroy Carr, whom he met in Indianapolis in the mid-1920s and created a productive working relationship. Carr convinced Blackwell to record with him for the Vocalion label in 1928; the result was “How Long, How Long Blues”, the biggest blues hit of that year.
Blackwell also made solo recordings for Vocalion, including “Kokomo Blues” which was transformed into “Old Kokomo Blues” by Kokomo Arnold before being redone as “Sweet Home Chicago” by Robert Johnson. Blackwell and Carr toured throughout the American Midwest and South between 1928 and 1935 as stars of the blues scene, recording over 100 sides. This period ended when Carr died as a result of his heavy drinking and nephritis. Blackwell recorded a tribute to his musical partner of seven years before leaving the music business.
Scrapper Blackwell rediscovered
Blackwell was rediscovered in Indianapolis at the end of the 1950s and agreed to return to music as the blues/folk revival began. He recorded an album for the Prestige/Bluesville Records label in 1962 and appeared ready to restart his blues career before being shot and killed during a mugging in an Indianapolis alley. The crime remains unsolved. Blackwell is buried in New Crown Cemetery, Indianapolis.