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Blind Lemon Jefferson


Blues legend “Blind” Lemon Jefferson’s story is one worth repeating.  He began life in rural, turn-of-the-century South with three major strikes against him: poor, blind, and black.  It turns out, however, that these disadvantages were the key ingredients necessary in contributing to the development of the American artform simply known as the “blues.”


Born around 1897, Jefferson got his start playing his guitar on the streets of Downtown Wortham, and at area garden parties and picnics.  In the early 1920’s, Jefferson traveled to Dallas, where he met and befriended the twelve-string guitar master Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter.  The two began traveling together and helped establish the blues scene in Dallas’ Deep Ellum district.


While in Dallas, Jefferson was discovered and began making records for Paramount Records in Chicago.  Between 1925 and 1929, Jefferson made over 80 recordings and became the first commercially successful male black artist in American history.  Some of his notable recordings are “Black Snake Moan,” “Boll Weevil Blues,” “Matchbox Blues,” and the song that would ironically become his trademark, “See That My Grave is Kept Clean.”


Jefferson was found dead on the streets of Chicago during the winter of 1929, and is buried in the Blind Lemon Jefferson Memorial Cemetery located on State Highway 14 on the north side of Wortham.