Boogie-woogie piano legend Pinetop Perkins, one of the last of the pre-war bluesmen, passed away on Monday. Born Joe Willie Perkins in Belzoni, Mississippi, on 7 July 1913, Perkins became known as “Pinetop” after his famous 1953 Sun Records recording of Clarence “Pinetop” Smith’s “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie.”
Perkins was perhaps best known for his work as a member of Muddy Waters’ legendary band between 1969 and 1981. He released his first album under his own name as a leader in 1992—followed by some 14 more during the years since—and he toured almost constantly. Perkins performed with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith at the State Theater a year ago and just last month, Perkins and Smith won the Best Traditional Blues Album Grammy award for their recording Joined at the Hip. Pinetop won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
“He was one of the last great Mississippi Bluesmen,” said fellow blues legend BB King in a statement on Perkins’ website. “He had such a distinctive voice, and he sure could play the piano. He will be missed not only by me, but by lovers of music all over the world.” Said Perkins, “I just wanna make people happy and make a dollar or two. It’s all I know to do.” Pinetop Perkins was 97.
Joe Willie “Pinetop” Perkins, photo by Steve Azzato