Skip James

By some Skip James is considered to be a musical genius. Skip mastered both piano and guitar early in life and recorded 17 selections for Paramount in 1931. All of his surviving work from this period displays a superlative and unique style on both instruments. Skip's falsetto singing set against his rythmic and erratic instrumentals can only be called haunting. The Depression was responsible for lack of sales and Skip drifted back into obscurity until blues collector, John Fahey, found him in 1964 and brought him to the Newport Folk Festival.

[Skip James] was a solitary, secretive person who never had his own family, regarded women with suspicious contempt, and was seemingly wary of the entire human race, several members of which he had coolly eliminated in  shoot-outs. He was mistrustful of merriment: once he passed a caravan of cars departing from a wedding. When he heard the honking, he said, with no attempt at humor: "Bet you won't hear that when they get divorced."  His bleak outlook made blues songs a natural outlet for him. 
--It is from an interview done by the Skip James's 
biographer Stephen Calt at
There is a very brief review of Calt's biography at the Quarterly Black Review

Blues has always had a reputation as the music that expresses the darker side of the soul: sad music, downer music, etc. Anyone who actually listens to much blues soon  realizes that the music runs the entire spectrum of feeling. And an awful lot of it [especially the most popular blues] is "up" music: jump blues, fun blues, party blues, etc. But, in most of the compositions of Skip James, the blues actually is what it's reputed to be. He couldn't be farther from jump blues; he couldn't do party music if he tried.


Biographies & introductions:

A biography with a photo at AMERICAN MUSIC ARCHIVES.

A biography at the Blue Flame Cafe.

A fact sheet with commentary at BluesNet Artists.

An introduction to his life and music at the site by Keity Purtell.

A site called "The Blue World of Skip James" contains instructions to Skip James and his music.

A Discography at "The Blue World of Skip James."

Little Cow and Calf is Gonna Die Blues the song
22-20 Blues the song
If you Haven't Got any Hay Get on Down the Road the song
Devil Got My Woman the song
Hard Time Killing Floor Blues the song
Drunken Spree the song

Leroy Carr

Sleepy John Estes

Roosevelt Sykes