Lead Belly

January 20, 1888 – December 6, 1949
Jump to section:
Content Details
Guitar lessons
Background information
Helpful links
Content details

Guitar lessons

What is Lead Belly's background?

Leadbelly, born Huddie William Ledbetter, was an American folk and blues musician, singer and songwriter, who was active in the early 20th century. He was born in Louisiana in 1888 and began playing guitar and singing at a young age. Leadbelly's music was heavily influenced by the traditional folk and blues music of the American South. He was known for his powerful and emotive singing style, as well as his virtuosic guitar playing. He was also known for his ability to adapt traditional folk songs to his own style, creating a unique blend of traditional and contemporary music. Throughout his career, Leadbelly performed for audiences both in the South and in the North, and his music was influential in the development of the folk and blues music scenes. He died on December 6, 1949.

What is the guitar style like?

Famous for wielding his Stella 12-string guitar, which Kurt Cobain notoriously attempted to buy many decades later, Lead Belly attained a powerful sound using fingerpicks and his irreplaceable feel for the instrument. Much like his contemporaries hailing from Texas, Lead Belly often used single-note, monotone basslines to drive through his songs. On recordings like "Gallis Pole", one can viscerally hear his fingerpicking proficiency at high speed. As a multi-instrumentalist, Lead Belly's musical styles extended to instruments such as the accordian, piano, or even just clapping his hands.

What is Lead Belly's life story?

Leadbelly was a force to be reckoned with in the world of folk and blues music. Born in Louisiana in 1888, he began playing guitar and singing at a young age, his music heavily influenced by traditional folk and blues of the American South.

Leadbelly's emotive singing style and virtuosic guitar playing quickly made him a sought-after performer, and he traveled the country, performing for audiences in the South and North. His music played a significant role in the development of the folk and blues music scenes.

However, Leadbelly's life was not without its struggles. He spent time in prison for various offenses and had a difficult time making a living as a musician. Despite these challenges, he never gave up on his passion for music.Leadbelly's career reached new heights when he was discovered by musicologist John Lomax and his son, Alan. They recorded his music and helped him to gain recognition, and Leadbelly began to perform at major music festivals and recorded several albums. His music reached new audiences and he became a major influence on the folk and blues music scenes.

Leadbelly's life was cut short when he passed away in 1949 due to Lou Gehrig's Disease, but his legacy lives on through his music. His emotive singing style, virtuosic guitar playing and ability to adapt traditional folk songs to his own style continues to inspire and captivate audiences to this day.