RIP Pinetop Perkins: Blues Legend Dead At 97
Ralph Mooney, former Waylon Jennings steel guitarist, also dies
Legendary multi-Grammy-winning blues pianist Pinetop Perkins has died at his home in Austin, according to his Web site. Perkins, who was part of Muddy Waters' band for years, was 97.
No cause of death was given. Less than two months ago, Perkins, along with his musical partner Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, won a Grammy for best traditional blues album, Joined At the Hip.
Born in Belzoni, Miss., on July 7, 1913, Perkins was one of the oldest of the original Delta bluesmen still living.
After switching from guitar to piano due to an injury suffered in a fight, Perkins worked at historic blues station KFFA with Sonny Boy Williamson on the popular King Biscuit Time program, one of the most influential blues programs in America, broadcast from Helena, Ark.
A journeyman musician most of his career, Perkins was selected to replace Otis Spann, considered by blues aficianados to be the top pianist in the Chicago blues scene, when Spann left Waters' band in 1969. Perkins worked for over a decade with Waters before striking out with several other Waters sidemen to form the Legendary Blues Band, who recorded off an on for over thirty years.
Perkins was finally recorded as a solo act in 1988, and according to the Blind Pig Records website, he was one of the most important figures in the development of blues piano:
"It was Pinetop, along with the likes of Pete Johnson, Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons and Little Brother Montgomery, who provided the basic format and ideas from which countless swing bands derived their sound. Although Pinetop never played swing, it was his brand of boogie-woogie that was shaped to form swing and, eventually, rock and roll."
Perkins received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 and another Grammy in 2008 for his collaboration with blues greats Honeyboy Edwards, Henry James Townsend, and Robert Lockwood, Jr. on Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live In Dallas.
Perkins had lived in Austin since 2005, and had a regular residency at Nuno's, where he played twice a week for the past few years. Funeral and memorial arrangements are pending.