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Robert Lockwood, Jr.

Guitarist and blues legend Robert Lockwood, Jr., a native of Turkey Scratch, Arkansas, was born on March 27, 1915. Lockwood, who held honorary doctorates from Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University, received his early education in Arkansas.

Lockwood’s first instrument was the pump organ, which he began to play as a young child; he later learned to play guitar from his stepfather, legendary blues artist Robert Johnson. Lockwood left school and began his professional career at age fifteen, traveling throughout the Mississippi Delta playing in juke joints and parties with Johnson, harpist Sonny Boy Williamson (a.k.a. Rice Miller), Johnny Shines, and others.

Lockwood made his first recordings in 1941 with Doc Clayton on his famous Bluebird Sessions in Aurora, Illinois. Among the four singles made were Take a Little Walk With Me and Little Boy Blue. Later that year, Lockwood returned to Helena, Arkansas, where he hosted a popular live radio broadcast on station KFFA, sponsored by the King Biscuit Company. Lockwood performed in all of the major blues centers, including Memphis, Tennessee, and St. Louis, Missouri; by the early 1950s he was working as one of the top session artists for Chess Records in Chicago.

In the 1960s, Lockwood moved to Cleveland, Ohio, settling down in the Hough community, where he purchased a home and raised his family. Lockwood's solo recording career began in 1970 with the album Steady Rollin’ Man. In the 1980s, Lockwood and longtime friend Johnny Shines recorded three albums.

Lockwood won a number of awards, including the W.C. Handy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 1980, and the National Heritage Fellowship Award in 1995. In 1989 Lockwood was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, and in 1998, he was inducted into the Delta Blues Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Mississippi.

Lockwood and his wife Mary lived in Cleveland, Ohio; he passed away on November 21, 2006.

Accession Number

A2005.017

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/14/2005

Last Name

Lockwood

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Miller Junior High School

North End Elementary School

First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

Turkey Scratch

HM ID

LOC02

Favorite Season

None

State

Arkansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

3/27/1915

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cleveland

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Death Date

11/21/2006

Short Description

Blues guitarist Robert Lockwood, Jr. (1915 - 2006 ) was a legendary blues guitarist who was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1989.

Employment

Telarc

Rounders Records

Lockwood Records

Favorite Color

Brown, Black, Gray, Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert Lockwood, Jr.'s interview, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Slating of Robert Lockwood, Jr.'s interview, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes his family background in Turkey Scratch, Arkansas

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. recalls being taught to play the blues on his grandfather's pump organ

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes his schooling in Arkansas

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. remembers starting to play guitar at thirteen

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. remembers Robert Johnson

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about the support he received in his early music career

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. remembers the uncle who raised him

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about the origins of blues music

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. remembers touring the South with Sonny Boy Williamson II

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. shares his opinion about popular myths regarding blues music

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about his economic circumstances during the Great Depression

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about an ear injury that precluded his military service

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about the sponsorship for blues radio shows

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. explains how music transcends racial discrimination, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. explains how music transcends racial discrimination, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 18 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. lists fellow blues musicians of the 1940s and 1950s

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about record labels for blues music

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. remembers Elvis Presley's music

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes characteristics of blues music

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about Muddy Waters' music

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes his unique style of music composition

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. recalls working for Chess Records in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. remembers his international musical tours during the 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about musical genres preceding and influencing the blues

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. lists his family

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes his life in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. remembers the Hough riots in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about his recordings since 1970

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about his label, Lockwood Records

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about musicians' exploitation by record labels

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. lists his honors and awards

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about Robert Johnson and blues history

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes his experience teaching blues music

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes his current projects

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. plays a tune

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes his family

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes his concerns about the exploitation of African American musicians

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. talks about the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. describes his ninetieth birthday plans

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. lists his favorites

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert Lockwood, Jr. narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

6$8

DATitle
Robert Lockwood, Jr. recalls working for Chess Records in Chicago, Illinois
Robert Lockwood, Jr. plays a tune
Transcript
We have you in Chicago [Illinois] in the 1940s, and so I wanna talk a little bit about your work there. Did you have a good career? Were you a full-time musician in Chicago?$$Well, I--you know, we got a musicians' union [American Federation of Musicians]. Well, I was--I've been the musicians' union ever since 1939.$$Okay.$$And I played with almost everybody. I played with Muddy Waters. I played Roosevelt Sykes. I played with Eddie Boyd, I played with Willie Mabon, I played with Little Walter, and I played--I played with almost everybody Chess [Records] had. And they all was different. So I guess maybe that's the reason my thing is so wide, because I played with everybody.$$So are you primarily playing in Chicago as a studio musician?$$At that time, yeah. I was with Chess with about, about twelve, thirteen years.$$Okay, so is that full-time employment then?$$Yes, ma'am.$$Oh, all right.$$I was recording with somebody almost, I would say seven months out of the year, I was steady recording with somebody all the time.$$Okay, what are some of your most memorable experiences about the days with Chess, some of the work that you enjoyed most?$$Well, you know, you would be surprised. I think the Chess brothers [Leonard Chess and Phil Chess] wanted to be black, and they used a lot of profanity, like, "Good morning, mother--," and you know what that would mean. "Good morning, son." You know what that mean, behind "son," right?$$Uh-huh.$$And that's the way they lived, and that's the way they was all the time. They always was--if you listened, just listened to one of 'em, you'd swear they was black anyway.$$So, very comfortable then with blues culture?$$Oh, yeah, yeah.$$Okay. And obviously, the music repaid them very well (laughter) through their promotional activities.$$Chess had the biggest company ever been in Chicago.$$Okay, now, when do you decide that you no longer wanna be a studio musician, and perhaps you wanna be out front, have your own group, rather than being a part of someone else's? When do you make that decision?$$Well, I really didn't make that.$$No?$$What happened was, I just got--well, when Chess went out of business, what you gon' do?$$And when did that happen?$$When he died.$$In what year?$$I don't know. I can't think of what, what year [1969] it was. It ain't been--it's been a good while ago, 'cause right now the--his family can get that money.$$So was that before you came to Cleveland [Ohio]?$$He passed since I been in Cleveland.$$Okay.$$I been here forty-four years.$See, I got a lot of--I got quite a few records out that, my material don't sound like nobody else's, yeah.$$Who handles the distribution?$$Huh?$$Who handles the distribution of your records? Do you handle that here yourself?$$Yeah, we handle it.$$Okay, so the family works with you--$$Yeah.$$--in getting the music out?$$Yeah.$$Okay, well, I don't know that our, the viewers of the video will know, but that's actually a piano in the background, and I see guitar cases, several of them. How many guitars do you have?$$Ah, I got about, I don't know. I got about six, six or seven.$$Well, now, if you move, you won't be on camera anymore.$$I done give away two.$$Okay, and if I asked you to play something, would you?$$What you want me to play?$$Well, I want to hear you say, yes, first. And then I'll give you a song (laughter).$$And I might not know the song, 'cause--$$What if I asked you to play 'Betty Mae' [sic. 'Honeymoon Blues']?$$'Betty Mae'?$$Yeah.$$Is that the blues?$$Yes, the Robert Johnson tune.$$No, that ain't--$$"Betty Mae, Betty Mae," yeah, "you'll be my wife someday." I heard that.$$Oh, well, I ain't--I don't know that one.$$No, you don't know that one? Okay, well, I won't sing it. Let me see if I can think of (laughter)--$$I know 'Love in Vain' and--$$Yes.$$--and quite a few others.$$That's a good one. Would you sing that one, play that one for us?$$Yeah, I'll get the guitar--$$Okay, well, just one moment. Let's see how we have to do this.$$(OFF-CAMERA DISCUSSION)$$(Singing and playing guitar) I followed her to the station with a suitcase in my hand. I followed down to the station with a suitcase in her hand. You know I was so blue, and I was so lonely, was all my love in vain, with all my love in vain.$$When the train pulled into the station, I looked her in the eye. When the train pulled into the station, I looked her in the eye. You know I was so blue, and I was so lonely, I could not help but cry, was my love in vain?$$Hey, hey, whew, Miss Betty Mae, hey, hey, ooh, Miss Betty Mae, hey, hey, hey, whew, Miss Betty Mae, was all my love in vain? When the train left the station, with two lights on behind, when the train pulled away from the station, with two lights on behind, the blue light was my blues and the red one was my mind, all my love (guitar).$$I'd like to hear how that sound if you got a chance.$$(OFF CAMERA VOICE): Sure.$$I'm kind of hoarse.$$(OFF CAMERA VOICE): Nah, you sound fine--

B. B. King

B.B. King was born Riley B. King in Itta Bena, Mississippi on September 16, 1925. His parents, Nora Ella and Albert L. King were sharecroppers on a cotton plantation. As a child, his guitar playing reverend introduced him to gospel music. After his mother's and grandmother's deaths left him on his own at the age of ten, Riley B. King began playing on street corners for dimes. He joined The Famous St. John's Gospel Singers as a singer and guitarist. However, he longed to visit Memphis, the home of his cousin and prominent bluesman, Bukka White.

The young Riley B. King hitchhiked to Memphis in the mid-1940s. His first big break came from WDIA radio in West Memphis, where he was given a weekly performance plugging the health tonic, Pepticon. In the early 1950s, King signed a contract with Modern Records and made his first recordings. The song, "Three O'Clock Blues," earned him a strong local reputation and he began touring nationwide. In 1956, his band played an incredible 342 one-night stands across the country. In the years following, King moved from the chitlin circuit of the south to concert halls, amphitheaters, and resort hotels. He played for audiences at the Howard Theater in Washington, the Royal Theater in Baltimore, and the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York.

Although he was widely respected by the blues community, and continued to play to large black audiences, B.B. King did not achieve the same mainstream success as some of his contemporaries. By the late 1960s, however, King received more widespread attention as many rock n' roll musicians such as Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy began citing him as a musical influence. With his 1966 signature hit, "The Thrill is Gone," B.B. King, for the first time, achieved success on the popular charts. He began to play for white audiences at theatres such as the Fillmore East. In 1969 he made his first network TV appearance on the "Tonight Show," and in 1971 he performed live on the Ed Sullivan Show.

B.B. King's music has taken him to the former Soviet Union, South America, Africa, Australia, and Japan, as well as numerous European cities. He has established his own unique and recognizable guitar style, borrowing from T-Bone Walker, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Lonnie Johnson, and using his own technique of trilling the strings with a left-hand vibrato. Songs such as "Rock Me Baby," "Nobody Loves Me But My Mother," and "How Blue Can You Get?" became popular with fans as B.B. King developed into a spectacular live performer.

B.B. King was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He also received the NARAS Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987, and has been awarded many Grammy Awards throughout his career. King has also been presented with honorary degrees from major academic institutions including Yale University, Rhodes College in Memphis, and Berklee College of Music, Togaloo College, and Mississippi Valley State. In 1990, he received the Presidential Medal of Arts. In 1991, he was awarded the National Award of Distinction from the University of Mississippi. In 1995, he received the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors from President Clinton.

In the early 1990s, B.B. King opened B.B. King Blues Clubs on Beale Street in Memphis, on Universal CityWalk in Los Angeles, and in New York City's Times Square. Two more clubs opened at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut in January 2002. Most recently, in September 2003 he opened a B.B. King Blues Club in Nashville, Tennessee.

King passed away on May 14, 2015 at the age of 89.

Accession Number

A2003.257

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/24/2003

Last Name

King

Maker Category
Middle Name

B.

Occupation
Organizations
First Name

B.

Birth City, State, Country

Itta Bena

HM ID

KIN04

Favorite Season

None

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Nevada

Birth Date

9/16/1925

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Las Vegas

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Death Date

5/14/2015

Short Description

Blues guitarist B. B. King (1925 - 2015 ) is a world famous blues musician.

Employment

WDIA Radio

Favorite Color

None

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Funding for 'An Evening with B. B. King'

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Introduction of B. B. King

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Isaac Hayes explains the importance of oral history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - B. B. King's friends describe the 'King of the Blues'

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - B. B. King describes his present life

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - B. B. King and Isaac Hayes discuss King's hometown

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - B. B. King recalls his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - B. B. King recounts meeting the pope

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - B. B. King remembers his childhood schooling

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Video about B. B. King's youth

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - B. B. King describes his environment in rural Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - B. B. King recalls being drafted and serving as a farm worker

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - B. B. King reflects on his early love of music

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - B. B. King explains leaving Mississippi after wrecking a tractor at work

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Video about B. B. King's experiences in Memphis

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - B. B. King discusses his guitar technique

Tape: 1 Story: 17 - B. B. King explains why he named his guitar 'Lucille'

Tape: 1 Story: 18 - B. B. King recalls his early music career

Tape: 1 Story: 19 - Video about B. B. King's first gig for a white audience

Tape: 1 Story: 20 - B. B. King remembers his first performance for a white audience

Tape: 1 Story: 21 - B. B. King performs 'The Thrill is Gone'

Tape: 1 Story: 22 - B. B. King describes his experiences touring abroad

Tape: 1 Story: 23 - B. B. King describes his present circumstances and ponders the future

Tape: 1 Story: 24 - Closing of B. B. King interview

Tape: 1 Story: 25 - End Credits for 'An Evening with B. B. King'