Big Bill Broonzy was born in Scott, Mississippi and he always claimed that he was born in 1893. However a birth certificate produced after his death by his sister showed that he was actually born in 1898. His mother was born as a slave and both parents were sharecroppers. He began his musical education at an early age and by the time the family moved to Arkansaw in the early 1900's Broonzy had become proficient on the fiddle. He served in the US Army during the first World War, after which he returned to Arkansas and to sharecropping. However he decided to pursue a career as a guitarist and singer and moved to Chicago in 1920 learning blues guitar from Papa Charlie Jackson. By 1926 Broonzy had made his recording debut as guitar accompanist to black blues singers. He went on to make many recordings as a solo performer in his own right, and also accompanying many of the blues greats of the time including close friend Tampa Red, Memphis Minnie, Lonnie Johnson, and John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson. He made his New York City concert debut at the Carnegie Hall in 1938.His repertoire was wide and he performed a range a blues which included ragtime, hokum, country, city and spiritual. The supportive paternal approach he adopted, along with Tampa Red,  toward younger less successful artists was perhaps one of the reasons that he was referred to as one of the ‘fathers of the blues’.

In the 1950’s, and after the arrival of the electric blues guitar, Broonzy’s style of folk blues was less in demand in the US and Broonzy successfully toured Europe, introducing the blues and paving the way for other blues artists. His mother died in 1957 at the age of 102 and ironically in the same year, Broonzy was diagnosed with throat cancer. He died the following year at the age of 61. In 1980 he was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.

    Spreadin' Snakes Blues