Legendary bluesman and master piano player Pinetop Perkins died on Monday, March 21 at his home in Austin, Texas.
Perkins was one of the true originals. At age 97, he was one of the last blues musicians who could legitimately claim direct roots in the Delta blues of the 1930s – a period that spawned such giants as Robert Johnson, Honeyboy Edwards and other titans of the of the deep South who laid the foundation for the blues as we know them today.
Born Willie Perkins in Belzoni, Mississippi, in July 1913, Perkins had compiled a resume that spanned nearly eighty years – as a guitarist and a pianist, then moving over to exclusively piano. One of the obvious highlights was his stint with Muddy Waters band for more than a decade. From 1969 through the early ‘80s, Perkins was an integral part of Muddy’s powerhouse combo that dominated the urbanized, electrified post-World War II blues scene. It was during these years that he forged an enduring friendship and prolific creative bond with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, then the drummer in Muddy’s band.
The most recent chapter in this longstanding alliance was Joined at the Hip, a collaborative project shared by Perkins and Smith that was released on June 8, 2010, on Telarc International, a division of Concord Music Group. The album is a mix of material written by Smith, along with a few chestnuts from the annals of Delta and Chicago blues. On February 13, 2011, Perkins broke the record of oldest Grammy winner when he snagged the GRAMMY® for best traditional blues album for Joined at the Hip.
“We are truly saddened by Pinetop’s passing,” says Mark Wexler, Senior Vice President and Label Manager, Jazz and Classics Group. “This is a great loss for the music community. Pinetop was such a major influence on today’s generation of blues musicians, and he remains an inspiration to so many young players. All of us at the Concord Music Group are grateful for his musical contributions.”
His manager, Patricia Morgan, said funeral arrangements were pending in Austin and a graveside service would be held near Clarksdale, MS, where he wanted to be buried.
The Pinetop Perkins Foundation is a tax exempt non-profit organization. Its mission is to provide encouragement and support for youth and young people at the beginning of their musical career; and help provide care and safety for elderly musicians at the twilight of their career. Donations can be made by check or through PayPal: www.pinetopperkinsfoundation.org.