Tampa RedTampa Red was born on 08/01/1904 in Smithville, Georgia. His birth name was Hudson Woodbridge. His parents died whilst he was still young and he moved to stay with his aunt and grandmother in Tampa, Florida. He would adopt their surname of Whittaker. A street musician called Piccolo Pete would teach him how to play his first blues licks on the guitar and he would also try to emulate his older brother Eddie who played the guitar.
In the 1920s he moved to Chicago, Illinois. There he would use the name "Tampa Red" as he started his career as a musician, the name being inspired by where he grew up and his skin colour. He was hired to accompany the blues vocalist Ma Rainey.
In 1928 he recorded "It's Tight Like That". Also in 1928 he started to play a gold plated National steel-bodied resonator guitar. He would sometimes be named "The Man with the Gold Guitar". His early recordings were mostly with Thomas A. Dorsey, also known as Georgia Tom. They recorded nearly 90 sides together, with some recordings being named the Hokum Boys or as Tampa Red's Hokum Jug Band, which also featured Frankie Jaxon.
In 1932 he ended his collaborations with Dorsey. He would still be in demand though as a session guitarist, working with John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, Memphis Minnie, Big Maceo, and many others.
In 1934 he signed with Victor Records. He formed the group Chicago Five with a collection of session musicians. They would create what was known as the Bluebird sound. He would become friends and work with Big Bill Broonzy and Big Maceo Merriweather. Red would make his home a centre for the blues community, where people could come to rehearse and stay when moving to Chicago from the Mississippi Delta. In the thirties he would sometimes be known as "The Guitar Wizard".
In the 1940s he played an electric guitar.
In 1942 he had a number 4 Billboard "Harlem Hit Parade" (later known as the R&B Chart) hit with "Let Me Play with Your Poodle".
In the late 1950s, he would reach a new audience as part of the blues revival.
In 1953 he was taken off the artist roster at Victor Records. In the same year his wife died and he became an alcoholic.
In 1960 he made his last recordings.
On 19 March 1981, he passed away.
Tampa Red was one of the most recorded blues artists of his era. He recorded an estimated 335 songs on 78-rpm records.