David "Honey Boy" Edwards, the oldest surviving Delta bluesman whose roots stretched back to blues legend Robert Johnson, died early Monday, August 29, 2011 from heart failure in his Chicago home. Honeyboy was 96.
I had the privilege of meeting Edwards several years ago at Merlefest. It was a chance meeting for sure. I was running from one stage to the other and had just spoke with Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Cassady. As I approached the side of the Doc Watson stage I saw him sitting, holding his guitar and talking with his friend and fellow bluesman Roy Bookbinder. I spoke with Roy first, thanking him for personally placing a concrete marker on the otherwise unmarked grave of Carolina blues legend Pink Anderson. Roy introduced me to Honeyboy. Of course, as a real music fan, I already knew all about Edwards. I felt like I was meeting royalty. And I was. He was super nice, and later that afternoon, he played a set that just blew me away.
Honeyboy was born in 1915 in Shaw, Mississippi. His father bought a guitar for $8 from a sharecropper and Edwards learned to play in 1929 and started playing professionally at age 17 in Memphis.
In 1945 he moved to Chicago and played on Maxwell Street in small clubs and on street corners. By the 1950s Edwards had played with almost every bluesman of note - including Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Charlie Patton and Muddy Waters. Among Edwards' hit songs were "Long Tall Woman Blues," "Gamblin Man" and "Just Like Jesse James."
Edwards won a 2008 Grammy for traditional blues album and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 2010. His death represents the loss of the last direct link to the first generation of Mississippi blues musicians.
Edwards was known for being an oral historian of the blues and would tell biographical stories between songs at his shows, Frank said. He was recorded for the Library of Congress in Clarksdale, Miss., in 1942.
Edwards earned his nickname "Honey Boy" from his sister, who told his mother to "look at honey boy" when Edwards stumbled as he learned to walk as a toddler. He is survived by his daughter Betty Washington and stepdaughter Dolly McGinister.
We will all miss Honeyboy. The last man standing as far as Delta Blues beginnings go. One of a kind. One of my true heroes.
-Michael Buffalo Smith