Lightnin' Hopkins Historical Marker Text Approved

hopkins portrait June 10.jpeg
Andrew Hanson, 1959
The Texas Historical Commission has approved the text that Eric Davis submitted for the historical marker honoring late Houston blues legend Lightnin' Hopkins, and will now send the text to a foundry so the marker can be cast. The commission approved Davis' proposal for the marker, which will be located on the grounds of Project Row Houses in the Third Ward, in February.

Davis says that due to the amount of other markers ahead of Hopkins', it may take another four months to receive the marker from the foundry. He still hopes to have a dedication ceremony at Project Row this fall, and is still seeking donations to the Lightnin' Hopkins Marker Fund to help pay for it.

Donations can be submitted to the fund at any U.S. Bank of America location via account number 5860 1320 5659, by Paypal to redavis59@comcast.net or check made out to the fund to 501 E. 16th St., Houston, TX 77008. Houston singer-songwriter Lee Alexander is also donating all sales of his song "Wheel" to the fund (download it for 99 cents here), and 35 limited edition prints of Andrew Hanson's portrait of Hopkins (right) are still available for $100 plus $15 shipping and handling. Email Davis to purchase a print.

The text of the marker is after the jump.

SAM (LIGHTNIN') HOPKINS

(MARCH 15, 1912 - JANUARY 30, 1982)

AFRICAN AMERICAN BLUES SINGER AND GUITARIST SAM HOPKINS WAS BORN IN CENTERVILLE, LEON COUNTY, TEXAS IN 1912, THE YOUNGEST OF FIVE CHILDREN OF ABE AND FRANCES (WASHINGTON) HOPKINS. SAM LEARNED TO PLAY GUITAR FROM JOHN HENRY AND JOEL HOPKINS, TWO OF HIS OLDER BROTHERS, AND BEGAN HIS MUSICAL CAREER IN CENTRAL TEXAS UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF TEXAS BLUES PIONEERS ALGER "TEXAS" ALEXANDER AND BLIND LEMON JEFFERSON.

HOPKINS TRAVELED THROUGHOUT THE SOUTH FOR MANY YEARS BUT ULTIMATELY SETTLED IN HOUSTON IN THE MID-1940s. HE BECAME A MAINSTAY OF HOUSTON'S THIRD WARD MUSIC CLUBS, ESPECIALLY THOSE LOCATED ON AND AROUND DOWLING STREET. HOPKINS WAS "DISCOVERED" BY AN ALADDIN RECORDS TALENT SCOUT IN 1946 AND WAS SENT TO LOS ANGELES FOR HIS FIRST RECORDING SESSIONS. IT WAS DURING THESE SESSIONS THAT HOPKINS PICKED UP THE NICKNAME "LIGHTNIN'" AND RECORDED HIS FIRST HIT RECORD, "KATY MAE." AFTER RETURNING TO HOUSTON, HOPKINS RECORDED FOR GOLD STAR, ONE OF THE EARLIEST LABELS TO RECORD BLUES IN HOUSTON.

DESPITE RECORDING SUCCESS, HOPKINS CONTINUED TO PLAY AND SING AT HOUSTON DANCE PARTIES, STREET CORNERS, AND DOWLING STREET ESTABLISHMENTS. HE ALSO CONTINUED TO RECORD AND TOUR, ALTHOUGH HE RARELY PLAYED OUTSIDE OF TEXAS DURING THE 1950s. THE POPULARITY OF FOLK AND BLUES MUSIC OF THE 1960s BROUGHT ADDITIONAL ATTENTION TO HOPKINS, AND HE PERFORMED TO MORE INTEGRATED AUDIENCES, INCLUDING SEVERAL PERFORMANCES AT NEW YORK'S CARNEGIE HALL. AFTER A PROLIFIC CAREER THAT INCLUDED APPROXIMATELY 100 RECORDED ALBUMS, AND OVER 600 SONGS, HOPKINS DIED IN 1982; HE IS BURIED IN HOUSTON'S FOREST PARK LAWNDALE CEMETERY.

(2010)

MARKER IS PROPERTY OF THE STATE OF TEXAS


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