Good morning, Blues
Huddie William Ledbetter [aka Leadbelly] was born on January 29, 1885 on the Jeter Plantation near Mooringsport, Louisiana. He was the only child of his parents Wesley and Sally. Huddie and his parents moved to Leigh, Texas when he was five and it was there that he became interested in music, encouraged by his uncle Terrell who bought Huddie his first musical instrument, an accordion.
It was some years later when Huddie picked up the guitar but by the age of 21 he had left home to wander around Texas and Louisiana trying to make his living as a musician. Over the next ten years Huddie wandered throughout the southwest eking out an existence by playing guitar when he could and working as a laborer when he had to.
Huddie Ledbetter was the world’s greatest cotton picker, railroad track liner, lover, and drinker as well as guitar player. This assertion came from no less an authority on the matter than Huddie himself. Since not everyone agreed with his opinion Huddie frequently found himself obliged to convince them. His convincing frequently landed him in jail.
In 1916 Huddie was in jail in Texas on assault charges when he escaped. He spent the next two years under the alias of Walter Boyd. But then after he killed a man in a fight he was convicted of murder and sentenced to thirty years of hard labor at Huntsville, Texas’ Shaw State Prison Farm. After seven years he was released after begging pardon from the governor with a song:
Please, Governor Neff, Be good ‘n’ kind
Have mercy on my great long time…
I don’t see to save my soul
If I don’t get a pardon, try me on a parole…
If I had you, Governor Neff, like you got me
I’d wake up in the mornin’ and I’d set you free
He wrote Good Morning blues in 1940; I like Della Reese’s rendition of the song.