Scrapper BlackwellScrapper Blackwell was born on 21/02/1903 in Syracuse, South Carolina. His full birth name was Francis Hillman Blackwell. He was one of 16 children and part Cherokee. Blackwell grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. His grandmother gave him the nickname Scrapper because of his fiery temperament. His father played the fiddle and Blackwell taught himself how to play the guitar. Blackwell built his first guitar out of a cigar box, wood and wire. In addition to the guitar, Blackwell learned to play the piano. In his teens, he was a part-time musician, going as far as Chicago.
In the mid-1920s, Blackwell met pianist Leroy Carr and they developed a working relationship.
In 1928, Carr convinced Blackwell to record the song "How Long, How Long Blues" with him for Vocalion Records. The song would become the biggest blues hit of the year.
Between 1928 and 1935, Blackwell and Carr toured as stars of the blues circuit. They recorded over 100 sides including "Prison Bound Blues", "Mean Mistreater Mama" and "Blues Before Sunrise".
Blackwell made some solo recordings for Vocalion. One of which was called "Kokomo Blues", which was turned into "Old Kokomo Blues" by Kokomo Arnold and changed again into "Sweet Home Chicago" by Robert Johnson.
In 1931, Blackwell recorded at Gennett studios in Richmond, Indiana. Blackwell was unhappy with his lack of credit. The situation was remedied by Vocalion's Mayo Williams after his 1931 breakaway: in all future recordings, Blackwell and Carr received equal songwriting credits and equal status in recording contracts.
In 1935, Blackwell had his last recording session with Carr for Bluebird Records. The two of them would leave the studio midway through the session on bad terms. The argument down to payment disputes. Two months later, Carr died of heavy drinking and nephritis. Blackwell recorded the song "My Old Pal Blues" in tribute to Carr and retired from music.
In the late 1950s, Blackwell returned to music.
In 1958, Colin C. Pomroy recorded Blackwell. Shortly afterwards, Duncan P Schiedt recorded him for Doug Dobell's 77 Records.
In 1961, Blackwell was recorded by Art Rosenbaum for the Prestige/Bluesville Label in Indianapolis.
On 07/10/1962, Blackwell was going to resume his career when he was shot and killed in a mugging in an alley in Indianapolis. The crime remains unsolved.