Huddie William Ledbetter (aka Led Belly) was possibly born on January 20th, 1888 (some records have him born on the 23rd). An icon of old folk and blues, he was one of the many musicians discovered and recorded by Smithsonian folklorist Alan Lomax in the 1930s.
I came upon Led Belly through the contemporary artists that admired him and were inspired by him. I m sure I m in the majority of listeners from my generation that first heard Led Belly through Kurt Cobain's chilling vocals that closed Nirvana s MTV Unplugged set in 1993. In The Pines is a traditional folk song whose writer is unknown, but it is most frequently associated with Led Belly. Cobain attributes the song to Led Belly before he begins the tune, calling him his favorite performer . Other artists that covered his music include Johnny Cash, The Greatful Dead, The Doors, Tom Petty, and The White Stripes.
As my tastes expanded and I began digging into music from before my time, I picked up a few collections for Led Belly s music. He usually accompanies his deep haunting moan of a voice with his twelve-string guitar, and only after attempting to pick songs on my 12-string did I recognize just how much of a virtuoso Led Belly was on his. Much like the Lunch Break Blog, his songs cover a wide range of topics including politics and social issues, as well as tell interesting stories. Here is his Uncle Sam Says along with a solo acoustic version of Kurt Cobain playing In The Pines from 1989.