Sam John Hopkins (March 15, 1912 – January 30, 1982), better known as Lightnin’ Hopkins, was an American country blues singer, songwriter, guitarist and occasional pianist, from Houston, Texas. Rolling Stone magazine included Hopkins at number 71 on their list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.
Robert "Mack" McCormick stated, "Hopkins is the embodiment of the jazz-and-poetry spirit, representing its ancient form in the single creator whose words and music are one act".
Born in Centerville, Texas, Hopkins' childhood was immersed in the sounds of the blues and he developed a deeper appreciation at the age of 8 when he met Blind Lemon Jefferson at a church picnic in Buffalo, Texas. That day, Hopkins felt the blues was "in him" and went on to learn from his older (somewhat distant) cousin, country blues singer Alger "Texas" Alexander. Hopkins had another cousin, the Texas electric blues guitarist Frankie Lee Sims, with whom he later recorded. Hopkins began accompanying Blind Lemon Jefferson on guitar in informal church gatherings. Jefferson supposedly never let anyone play with him except for young Hopkins, who learned much from and was influenced greatly by Blind Lemon Jefferson thanks to these gatherings.
In 1946 whilst singing on Dowling St. in Houston's Third Ward (which would become his home base), he was discovered by Lola Anne Cullum from the Los Angeles-based record label Aladdin Records. She convinced Hopkins to travel to Los Angeles, where he accompanied pianist Wilson Smith. The duo recorded twelve tracks in their first sessions in 1946. An Aladdin Records executive decided the pair needed more dynamism in their names and dubbed Hopkins "Lightnin'" and Wilson "Thunder".
Hopkins recorded more sides for Aladdin in 1947. He returned to Houston and began recording for the Gold Star Records label. During the late 1940s and 1950s Hopkins rarely performed outside Texas. However, he recorded prolifically, occasionally traveling to the Mid-West and Eastern United States for recording sessions and concert appearances. It has been estimated that he recorded between 800 and 1000 songs during his career.
In 1960, he signed to Tradition Records. The recordings which followed included his song "Mojo Hand" in 1960. In 1968, Hopkins recorded the album Free Form Patterns backed by the rhythm section of psychedelic rock band the 13th Floor Elevators. Through the 1960s and into the 1970s, Hopkins released one or sometimes two albums a year and toured, playing at major folk festivals and at folk clubs and on college campuses in the U.S. and internationally.
Known as Houston's poet-in-residence for 35 years, Hopkins recorded more albums than any other bluesman. He died of esophageal cancer in Houston on January 30, 1982, at the age of 69. His New York Times obituary named him as "one of the great country blues and perhaps the greatest single influence on rock guitar players."
This compilation presents the best of the legendary early output of the man who kept alive the Texas country blues tradition.
1. Moon Rise Blues
2. Picture on the Wall
3. Henny Penny Blues
4. Untrue Blues
5. Mama's Baby Child
6. T-Model Blues
7. Feel So Bad
8. Down Baby
9. Let Me Play with Your Poodle
11. Short Haired Woman
12. Fast Mail Rambler
13. Big Mama Jump
14. Baby Please Don't Go
15. Shining Moon
16. Mad with You
17. Someday Baby
18. You Don't Know
19. Lightnin's Boogie
20. Honey Babe