July 20, 2013


T-Model Ford, Late-Blooming Bluesman, Is Dead (MARGALIT FOX, 7/19/13, NY Times)

T-Model Ford, a raw-sounding, mesmerizing guitarist and singer who was among the last of the old-time Delta bluesmen -- and whose career was all the more noteworthy for his not having picked up a guitar until he was almost 60 -- died on Tuesday at his home in Greenville, Miss. [...]

"Jack Daniel's, the women and the Lord been keeping me here," he told The Chicago Sun-Times in 2003. In old age, however, on doctor's orders, he reduced his involvement with the first of these to some extent.

Mr. Ford was a completely self-taught musician, and the blues that sprang from him was stark, harsh and haunting even by the standards of the genre.

Because he did not know the proper way to tune a guitar, the eccentric tunings he devised lent his music a strange, soulful tonality -- he played, as fellow musicians sometimes described it, "in the key of T."

If Mr. Ford exuded the aura of a backwoods bluesman from Central Casting, he came by it more or less honestly, for his personal narrative seemed to rival that of any blues song:

There was the childhood spent working the fields under the brutal Mississippi sun.

There was his first wife, whom he married when he was a teenager, and who left, Mr. Ford said, to run off with his father.

There was another wife, who he said drank poison to try to end a pregnancy but died instead.

"I heard her thump down on the floor, stone dead," Mr. Ford told an interviewer in 1999. "I was sad, I loved that woman, but I didn't let it get me down."

There was still another wife -- either the third or the fifth; the number varied with Mr. Ford's recollection -- who gave him his first guitar before decamping.

There were the times, more recently, that he tried to stab members of his band, because they irked him.

Of the stories that swirled around Mr. Ford, some were tall tales in the oral tradition of old bluesmen. Others seemed born of the gleeful, spur-of-the-moment hyperbole with which Mr. Ford, who could neither read nor write but was no less canny for that, embellished his many interviews.

And still others, given the realities of black life in the Depression-era South, were apparently true -- including the two years he spent on a chain gang for killing a man in self-defense.

That man may not have been the only one Mr. Ford killed in his long life. As he wondered aloud in an interview with The New York Times in 2001, "Do I count the one I run over in my Pontiac?"

James Lewis Carter Ford was born on June 24 -- of that much he was certain -- about 1920, in Forest, Miss.

T-Model Ford: Hear A Rousing Session With The Late Bluesman (JOHN RICHARDS, October 07, 2008, NPR)

Enhanced by Zemanta

Posted by at July 20, 2013 12:28 PM

blog comments powered by Disqus