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Born Samuel John Hopkins in Centerville, Texas, on March 15, 1912, the man later known as Lightnin’ would go on to become one of blues music’s foundational artists. A noted guitarist, Hopkins also sang, wrote and occasionally played piano.
Check out the 15 Best Delta Blues Songs right here.
The blues is one of the most geographically specific types of American music, with styles and timbres changing drastically by region—from the swinging Texas blues (like from where Hopkins grew up) to the harmonica-laden, country-infused Delta blues to the electric blues of Chicago.
Fifty years ago today, when Hopkins played a 13-song set at the Ash Grove in Los Angeles, he offered both originals rooted in the Texas blues tradition and his interpretations of songs from other parts of the country. One of the highlights is this version of the classic Delta blues track “Baby, Please Don’t Go.” Although its roots can be traced back to the 1800s, Mississippi-born Big Joe Williams popularized the tune with his recording in 1935.
For its part, the Ash Grove was an important venue on the L.A. scene from 1958 to 1973, hosting a range of folk and blues concerts now considered historic. Philip Melnick, its first general manager, also photographed many of the musicians, including the image of Lightnin’ Hopkins and Bernie Pearl above from this show on Sept. 14, 1967. So if the spirit moves you after listening to Hopkins’s entire set, you can buy that photo—matted, framed and signed by Melnick, himself—in the Wolfgang’s Vault store right here.