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Arthur Crudup

On 24/08/1905: Arthur Crudup was born. He was born in Forest, Mississippi. His family were migrant workers, travelling through the South and Midwest. In 1926 the family returned to Mississippi. There Arthur would sing gospel music. In Clarksdale, Mississippi, Crudup began his career as a blues singer. He became a member of the group the Harmonizing Four. In 1939 he went with the Harmonizing Four to visit Chicago. Crudup decided to stay in Chicago and he worked as a solo musician, but could barely make a living singing on the streets. Allegedly, he met record producer Lester Melrose, whilst he was living in a packing crate. Melrose introduced him to Tampa Red, who signed him to RCA Victor's Bluebird record label.
He toured various clubs in the South, occasionally playing alongside Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James.
In the late forties he recorded with RCA records. In the early fifties he recorded with Ace Records, Checker Records and Trumpet Records. His last Chicago session was in 1951. Between 1952 and 1954 recording sessions for Victor were held at radio station WGST in Atlanta, Georgia. He would record under various names including Elmer James and Percy Lee Crudup. His songs include "Mean Old 'Frisco Blues", "Who's Been Foolin' You", "That's All Right", "Rock Me Mama", "So Glad You're Mine", and "My Baby Left Me". Crudup would stop recording in the fifties, due to disputes over the royalties. In 1965 he started recording again for Fire Records and Delmark Records. During this time Crudup worked as a labourer to make ends meet, as he was still not receiving royalties. After a dispute with Lester Melrose he went back to Mississippi and took up bootlegging. After a while he moved to Virginia to live with several of his siblings and three sons. He would work as a field labourer and would sing in bars and supply them with moonshine.
In 1968 the blues promoter Dick Waterman took up the fight for Crudup's royalties and managed to get an agreement that Crudup would be paid $60,000. The agreement was not honoured though as Hill and Range Songs, who were supposed to pay the royalties, refused to sign the legal papers as they thought they could not lose more money in legal action.
In the early seventies activists Celia Santiago and Margaret Carter tried to help Crudup get the royalties, but had little success.
In 1970 Crudup toured in the UK and recorded with local musicians. He would also tour with Bonnie Raitt.
In 1974 Crudup died of complications of heart disease and diabetes in Northampton County, Virginia.
It wasn't long after Crudup's death that the claims to his royalties were finally sorted. Chapell Music were buying Hill and Range and wanted the legal dispute settled. Waterman used that to get Hill and Range to pay out to Crudup's estate. The first check was for $248,000 and over the next thirty years $3 million would be paid out.
Crudup was honoured with a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail.
Elvis Presley would be highly influenced by Crudup. Presley once remarked "If I had any ambition, it was to be as good as Arthur Crudup".

The Music History Calendar is written by the Blues Rock artist Marshland Pete
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