Powell was born on December 23, 1908 in Utica, Mississippi, a small town
approximately 25 miles southwest of Jackson in Hinds County. Shortly
thereafter, his parents Arma and Rosie Powell moved to a plantation, at
Lombardy in the Delta, near Shelby, Mississippi. While at Lombardy, Eugene
began to play guitar at the age of seven.
Together with his half brother Ben on a mandolin, Eugene began to play as a
novelty act at picnics and suppers and for prisoners at Mississippi State
Penitentiary. In 1915, Eugene's half brother, the late Bennie "Sugar"
Wilson, may have been the inspiration for Eugene to learn the banjo-mandolin
The Powell Family, again, moved to Hollandale in Washington county in the
early 1920's. This is when Eugene Powell began his formative years with the
Chatmon Family. The beginning of the musical Mississippi heritage for Eugene
Powell was also the beginning for Charley Patton and Walter Vincson. They
got their musical apprentice-ship from an ex-slave fiddle player named
Henderson Chatmon. He was the father of the Chatmon Family whose sons formed
the group, The Mississippi Sheiks. Eugene Powell grew up with the Chatmon
Family when they moved from Bolton in central Mississippi, to
Hollandale in the Delta in the 1920's. It was in Hollandale where Eugene
Powell's instrumental interplay began with Henderson, Chatmon and his sons
Bo, Lonnie, Ty, Harry, Sam, Willie, Bert, Lamar, Edger and Charlie. Eugene
Powell became a sometime member and recording member of The Mississippi
Sheiks, one of Mississippi's most commercially successful blues ensembles.
The Eugene Powell Family and the Chatmon Family worked on the Kelly Drew
Plantation in Hollandale together. The true professionals of the Jackson
Blues, Delta Blues and Forty-Fours were Eugene Powell and his playing
partners, the Chatmons, Richard "Hacksaw" Harney and Ernest "44" Johnson.
Eugene Powell played many instruments, banjo, guitar, harmonica, horn,
mandolin, violin, and played lead most of the time when accompanied with
another musician. Eugene Powell's guitar was a Silvertone and he inserted an
aluminium resonator into it like those found on the National guitar. He also
fitted a seventh string, using the 12 string models as his inspiration. The
extra string was a 'C' an octave higher than the conventional string.
By the end of the 1940's, Eugene played rarely as new styles and trends
subjugated his abilities and left him unappreciated. Understandably, Eugene
later work did not have the spark of his earlier playing, but his Country Delta
sophisticated playing style marks him out as being one
of the greatest blues soloists and accompanists of his time. He died in