Big Bill Broonzy 1952
Blues artist Big Bill Broonzy (1893–1958) was active in 1930s and ‘40s Chicago — composing, performing, and recording — and in Europe in the early 1950s. Alan Lomax, who, like many of his colleagues, held Broonzy in high esteem, spent time with him in Chicago, and recorded him at the Decca studios in New York in 1946 and in 1947 after his appearance in the Blues at Midnight Town Hall concert. They met again in Paris in 1952, at which time Bill recorded two hours of songs and talk on such subjects as pride, race, and black culture in America.
Born in Scott County, Mississippi, on the banks of the Mississippi River, William Lee Conley Broonzy learned the violin on a homemade instrument and was playing for social functions by the age of ten. He was briefly a traveling preacher and did a stint in the Army, after which he moved to Chicago and began playing guitar. His recording career, begun with Paramount in 1927, spanned three full decades, taking him from the heart of the Chicago blues scene to the folk revival of the 1950s. He died of throat cancer in 1958.