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    (January 23, 1888-December 6, 1949)
    Birth name was Huddie William Ledbetter
    Discovered in Angola Penitentiary, Louisiana, by musicologists John and Alan Lomax
    Recorded the songs 'Birmingham Jail,' 'Black Betty,' 'Bourgeoisie Blues,' 'C.C. Rider,' 'Cotton Fields,' 'Death Letter Blues,' 'Go Down Old Hannah,' 'Good Morning Blues,' 'Goodnight Irene,' 'House of the Rising Sun,' 'Midnight Special,' 'The Roosevelt Song' 'They Hung Him on a Cross,' and 'Where Did You Sleep Last Night'
    Died from Lou Gehrig's disease
    Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an early influence (1988)
    The date and year of his birth are disputed.
    He fathered two children out of wedlock as a teenager.
    He married his first wife when he was 22 and she was 15.
    He left her and their two children to become a traveling musician.
    He served time for assault (1917), murder (1918-25), attempted murder (1930-34) and assault again (1939-40).
    His friendship with the Lomaxes ended when he pulled a knife on John.
    John Lomax noted that when Leadbelly passed the hat after shows in New York, 'he always became the smiling, cajoling Southern darky minstrel extracting nickels from his White folks.'
    He played the guitar, piano, mandolin, harmonica, violin, concertina and accordion.
    He insisted that he had only killed in self-defense.
    He was twice released early from prison for good behavior.
    He had to put up with patronizing and sensationalized press accounts of his life, such as the New York Herald-Tribune announcing Leadbelly coming to town to 'do a few tunes between homicides.'
    The songs he popularized were recorded by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Nirvana.

Credit: C. Fishel

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