Today in Blues history – January 12, 1904 – Mississippi Fred McDowell is born
Fred McDowell, a seminal figure in Mississippi hill country blues, was one of the most vibrant performers of the 1960s blues revival. McDowell (c. 1906-1972) was a sharecropper and local entertainer in 1959 when he made his first recordings at his home on a farm north of Como for noted folklorist Alan Lomax. The depth and originality of McDowell’s music brought him such worldwide acclaim that he was able to record and tour prolifically during his final years.
“Mississippi” Fred McDowell, as he was usually billed, was actually born and raised in Rossville, Tennessee. He never knew his birth date–January 12, 1904 is often cited, although census and Social Security documents point to 1906 or 1907. His music blended the sounds he heard from local guitarists in Tennessee with the pulsating juke joint grooves of the North Mississippi hills and the hard-edged blues he picked up during several years spent in the Delta. Spirituals were an important part of his repertoire, and one, “ You Got to Move,” recorded by McDowell in 1965, gained widespread fame when the Rolling Stones recorded it on their 1971 album Sticky Fingers.