Mississippi John Hurt died in 1966. I was born 10 years later. But there is no question that the man’s playing changed my life.
John Hurt first recorded in 1928 but sadly his recording career at that time was very brief.
On March 2 1963 blues fan Tom Hoskins knocked on John’s door at John’s home in Avalon, Mississippi. This encounter went on to give John a second chance of a career in music (at the age of 71). John went on to record many albums and play many concerts. His music and guitar style influenced countless musicians around the world and continues to do so.
At the Institute in Laxey, Isle of Man, on Saturday, March 2 2013 we celebrated 50 years to the day since the ‘re-discovery’.
Dr Philip Ratcliffe, author of Mississippi John Hurt, His Life, His Times, His Blues, gave a wonderful presentation about John Hurt and also performed some of his songs.
Dr Phil has played an important part in the story of Mississippi John Hurt in recent years.
While researching the book he discovered recordings of John Hurt made on March 3 1963 by Tom Hoskins .
Those recordings are now available on CD.
On the night my friend Pete Woodman also gave an excellent performance and the blues duo I play in – Blue John and Papa Cass – finished off the evening with a selection of John Hurt tunes. For the final three numbers – Praying On The Old Campground, I Shall Not Be Moved and Goodnight Irene – both Pete and Phil joined us.
The concert and presentation sold out two weeks in advance and the audience was simply wonderful and sang along on numerous occasions. It is a night I will never ever forget.
Mississippi John Hurt’s granddaughter and Tom Hoskins’ sister sent messages of support which were read out on the night too. It is hard for me to describe what the event as a whole means to me. As the organiser I wanted to make sure we performed the best possible tribute for John Hurt. And I am happy to say I think we did just that.
Photo: Left to right, Pete Woodman, Tim Cass, John Gregory and Dr Phil Ratcliffe (Picture courtesy of TGF Photos – Tony Goldsmith)