Dave "Honeyboy" Edwards
@ The Whole Music Club, February 27, 1997

Honeyboy will be 82 on June 28th and is one of the few remaining delta blues men who traveled the country during the 30's and 40's playing with most of the legendary blues performers of that time. Robert Johnson, Son House, Big Joe Williams, Charlie Patton, Jack Owens, Muddy Waters, Rice Miller, Peetie Wheatstraw, Little Walter (before he went north to St. Louis and Chicago), Lightnin' Hopkins, Memphis Slim, Chester "Howlin Wolf" Burnett, are just a few of the legends he played with or knew - and he has stories for all of them!

He said they traveled around the country looking for a town that allowed whiskey, because some were dry and those places weren't any fun to play in. He said "all we could do was play the blues and drink white whiskey, so we wanted to go where people would come out and have a good time -- there wasn't any money."

Honeyboy was just 27 when Alan Lomax caught up with him for some recordings in 1942 for the Library of Congress. These recordings were preserved and re-issued with new material on the 1992 Earwig album Delta Bluesman. He was introduced on the recordings by Lomax as one of the best blues guitar players in the country at that time. He plays in a variety of styles from rag time to slicing hard edged delta blues. I know he must be asked about his nickname by everyone he sees but his eyes lit up as he explained he got his nickname "Honeyboy" from his older sister when he was just a toddler learning how to walk and it just stuck with him -- it seemed to bring back pleasant memories of a time long past.

Honeyboy has an impish quality about him, a wry sense of humor and an opinion or story for just about every blues performer he ever met. Some are quite amusing like the time someone asked Robert Johnson, who was playing on the street, to sing that Terraplane Blues song. When Robert said he was the one who recorded that song, the listener just said I don't care who recorded the song I just want you to play it. Or more poignant when Honeyboy talks about the last days of Robert Johnson's life, after he was poisoned and hung on in agony for 3 days because there were no doctors to treat him at the time.

During this performance Honeyboy let his guitar do most of the talking. He was in great form and fine voice. His fingers were as nimble as ever and his wild, slicing slide work on numbers like Sweet Home Chicago was like taking a ride on a southern freight train going around the bend at 90 miles an hour, holding on for dear life - what a rush! At another point he couldn't find his slide for a moment and Delta Doc Roger, sitting right in front, pulled out his machined slide made just for his large hands and tossed it on stage. Honeyboy picked it up, grinned, and as he held up his small hands said "I have woman's hands and this would just fall off." So he leaned over, took a sip of gin from his paper cup (he carries a little flask in his pocket and said that helps get him going) and launched into some more of his aggressive trademark riffs.

Before the show I had requested the song Hide Away, saying I really enjoyed the way he performed it the last time he was in town at the Cedar in 1995. Either he was being generous or just forgot but he played it twice (once during each set). Well I didn't mind at all. In fact his playing that night at Coffman was inspired. There were times he was so absorbed in his music you thought he was having a religious experience. He was having fun and so were we. At one point about half way through the first set he said, "now I'll play some blues." Boy, what an understatement! He was delivering the goods that night, a night I know most of us won't forget -- pure delta blues, by one of the originators of the music!

Mailbox E-mail Ray Stiles at: mnblues@aol.com

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