When I picked up The World Don’t Owe Me Nothing, the memoir of veteran bluesman David Honeyboy Edwards, I was expecting to read the story of a person, a living legend, one of the last of the original Mississippi Delta bluesmen. But what I got instead was a story of a people—a first-hand glimpse at life in rural America during and after the Great Depression. That was a pleasant surprise.
Edwards paints a captivating portrait of the way life was… for himself and for others. His stories are brutally honest and refreshingly candid. “That song, about the ‘killin’ floor,’ that mean they got you so down you can’t do nothing for yourself. I been there! That was some bad times back when I was a boy.”
His name might not be a household word... like say Muddy Waters or BB King, nor does Edwards claim to be a “father of the blues” like some of his contemporaries. But he was certainly there... right in the middle when it all began; sharecropping in Mississippi, jumping freights with Big Joe Williams, gambling with Little Walter, playing the juke joints and barrelhouses with Sunnyland Slim, fishing and hanging around with Elmore James, hitching rides and playing small town whiskey houses with Big Walter Horton and Sonny Boy Williamson, recording for Alan Lomax and the Library of Congress. Edwards even claims that he was drinking with Robert Johnson the night he was poisoned.
And then there was Chicago in the ‘50s – “Everybody was in Chicago by then,” says Edwards. He found himself playing with the likes of Magic Sam, Big Walter, Junior Wells, Elmore James, and Kansas City Red.
Edwards just celebrated his 95th birthday on June 28th, “...one of our last living links to the roots of the music,” says Josh Hathaway of Verse Chorus Verse. He’s the “real deal” …and he’s still at it. Edwards will be in Chicago on August 31st, and has dates booked well into 2011 as part of “Blues at the Crossroads: The Robert Johnson Centennial Concerts” —you can catch him on that tour in Ann Arbor on February 10.
“The blues is something that leads you,” says Edwards. “I’d always follow it. I’d get up and go wherever it took me. And everywhere the blues took me was home.”
The World Don’t Owe Me Nothing