|Honeyboy Edwards at Western Maryland Blues Festival in Hagerstown, MD. Photo © Ron Weinstock|
Big Joe Williams took first Edwards out on the road as a youngster and arguably Williams highly rhythmic style is the most obvious influence on Edwards. Edwards became at times a very capable blues performer in the Delta style. Certainly the recordings Edwards made for Alan Lomax were fine examples of the Delta style. In the post-war era he had a few commercial recording sessions leading to one issued 78 and sessions for Chess and Sun that went unissued at the time, although issued later. Even most of Pete Welding's recordings of Honeyboy were unissued until the CD era, although Honeyboy was among the artists brought to play with Fleetwood Mac in the late sixties.
Honeyboy may not have had the powerful guitar style or passionate, charismatic singing style that might have appealed to commercial record labels, but his warm personality and his personnel connections to the giants of the pre-war blues made him a popular performer for the past few decades was was capable of reaching across cultural and generational lines so well.
|Wardell Quezergue and Jean Knight at the Ponderosa Stomp. Photo © Ron Weinstock|
In more recent years his arranging touch was utilized for big band albums by Charles Brown and Gatemouth Brown; several acclaimed Dr. John albums (including the Grammy® Award Winning "Goin' Back to New Orleans"); and the wonderful "Deacon John's Jump Blues." Listening to the renditions on this CD and DVD, and comparing them with the original recordings, one appreciates how Quezergue translated small combo recordings into a big band language with considerable grace and elegance. He was spotlighted at a couple of Ponderosa Stomps in New Orleans as well as a special Stomp at Lincoln Center in new York City. When Dr. Ike asked Dr. John if he would consider doing some of his older songs on which he played guitar originally, he agreed when he learned Quezergue would be doing the arrangements and conducting. This gives a sense of the contributions of this marvelous person.
|Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith at the 2010 Pocono Blues Festival, Lake Harmony PA. Photo © Ron Weinstock|
The quality of his music as a leader was also noteworthy. I said of his Hightone release Way Back, that it "showcases Smith’s harp as well as his amiable vocals on some choice covers as well as idiomatic originals." His son Kenny has become one of the best drummers in the blues today (and played on Way Back). What I will remember most about Willie was his infectious smile and the sparkle in his eyes.
RIP Honeyboy, Wardell and Big Eyes.