Blues Birthday: Tampa Red | January 8, 2013


Tampa Red  1904-1981

Known as the “Guitar Wizard” for his single-note lead and polished bottleneck slide technique, Hudson Whittaker was born in Georgia, but raised in Tampa, Florida.  Moving to Chicago, he worked with Ma Rainey, Thomas A. Dorsey (Georgia Tom), Sonny Boy Williamson (the first, John Lee Williamson), Memphis Minnie, and Big Maceo Merriweather.  Tampa Red was the first black musician to play a National steel-bodied resonator guitar.  His songs and recordings influenced the next generation of blues artists.

In an interview quoted in The Bluebird Recordings, Ry Cooder expressed the thought that Tampa’s influence went far beyond the blues: “I really think that it’s a straight line from Tampa Red to Louis Jordan to Chuck Berry, without a doubt…. Tampa Red changed it from rural music to commercial music.”


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