Son HouseOn 21/03/1902: Son House was born in Lyon, Mississippi. His full birth name was Eddie James House Jr. His father was a musician, church member and a heavy drinker. He left the church due to his drinking habit. Later on, he gave up alcohol and became a Baptist deacon. Eddie Jr was also religious and developed an interest in music. He would only sing, not being interested in the instrumental band and hated the blues on religious grounds. When Eddie Jr was seven or eight, his parents separated and his mother took him to Tallulah, Louisiana. When he was in his teens, they moved to Algiers, New Orleans. At the age of 15, he began preaching sermons.
When he was 19, he married Carrie Martin, an older woman from New Orleans. The marriage was against the wishes of his family and the couple moved to her hometown of Centerville, Louisiana, where they helped run her father's farm. After a couple of years, House left after feeling used and disillusioned. He moved frequently taking on various labour jobs such as working at an East Saint Louis steel plant and a Louisiana horse ranch.
In his early twenties, House became a paid pastor in the Baptist Church and then in the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. Soon, he developed a drinking habit and probably also started womanising. After several years of conflict, he left the church. Though he would still occasionally preach sermons.
In 1927, House made a sudden change in his musical tastes. In a hamlet south of Clarksdale, House heard one of his drinking friends (either James McCoy or Willie Wilson) playing bottleneck guitar. He immediately changed his opinion of the blues and bought a guitar from a musician called Frank Hoskins. Within a few weeks, House was playing alongside Hoskins, McCoy and Wilson. He was also inspired by Rube Lacey who had recorded for Columbia Records that year and would record for Paramount Records in 1928.
Around 1927, or 1928, House was shot after a man went on a shooting spree in a juke joint. House allegedly shot the man dead and received a 15-year sentence at the Mississippi State Penitentiary. He served two years before he was released after his family appealed and an influential white planter who employed him intervened. Details of the killing and conviction are unclear. House's biographer Daniel Beaumont couldn't find details in the court record of Coahoma County or in the archive of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
After being released in 1929 or early 1930, House walked to Jonestown and caught a train to the small town of Lula, Mississippi. Charley Patton also happened to be living in Lula as well after being expelled from his base on the Dockery Plantation. Patton watched House busking when House first arrived penniless at Lula station. He would later watch him attacting a crowd to the café and bootleg whisky business of a woman called Sara Knight. Patton invited House to join him and his partner Willie Brown. The musical partnership is disputed by Patton's biographers Stephen Calt and Gayle Dean Wardlow. They suggest that House was a friend of Patton's and travelled to gigs with him, playing separately.
In 1930, Art Laibly of Paramount Records came to Lula to persuade Patton to record more sides. Patton, House, Brown and pianist Louise Johnson went to Grafton, Wisconsin to record for the label. House recorded nine songs during the session, eight of which were released with little success. It would be 35 years before House recorded commercially again. He continued to play alongside Patton and Brown until Patton's death in 1934. House worked as a tractor driver during the period.
In 1941, Alan Lomax recorded House for the Library of Congress. He was accompanied by Willie Brown, Fiddlin' Joe Martin on mandolin and Leroy Williams on harmonica. Lomax recorded House again the next year.
In 1943, House moved to Rochester, New York. He disappeared from public view and worked as a railroad porter for the New York Central Railroad before working as a chef.
In 1964, House was rediscovered by Nick Perls, Dick Waterman and Phil Spiro. They had started their long search in the Mississippi Delta before eventually finding him in Rochester. House was unaware that his early recordings had become popular in the 1960s folk-blues revival. In the same year, he appeared at the Newport Folk Festival.
House toured the US and Europe and recorded for CBS Records.
In 1965, House recorded the album "Father of Delta Blues: The Complete 1965 Sessions" which also featured Alan Wilson. House had received tuition from the album from Alan Wilson, who would later become a member of Canned Heat. Wilson was a fan of House and helped him remember his old material which he had forgotten. House would sometimes perform with Wilson live. In the same year, House appeared at the New York Folk Festival.
In 1967, House went on a European tour with the American Folk Festival which also included Skip James and Bukka White.
In 1970, House toured Europe again. He appeared at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The concerts in London, where he was backed by Alan Wilson, were recorded and released by Liberty Records as the album "John the Revelator: The 1970 London Sessions".
In 1974, House performed at the two Days of Blues Festival in Toronto. House would make an appearance on the TV show "Camera Three" accompanied by Buddy Guy. House decided to retire again in the same year and move to Detroit, Michigan.
On 19/10/1988, House died of cancer of the larynx in Detroit.
Members of the Detriot Blues Society raised money through benefit concerts to put a monument on his grave.