aka Sonny Boy Nelson
















Eugene 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 too.

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 1998.


    Street Walkin'