Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins

The bluesman as bard, as bad man, as bo-diddleyin’ gunslinger, larger than life and twice as true --whenever he’s not stringing you along a line of fresh bullshit. Funny, funky, dark and blue, the hustling streetlife poet wearing x-ray Ray-Bans way back when Bob Dylan was working his way up towards his first Woody. Brownskin face masked behind nightblack shades and stingy-brim straw fedora, wreathed in cigarillo smoke and clatter, making it all up as he went along. Lightnin’ was the kind of guitar-picker that scholars prefer to describe as “primitive”; in this case, primitive means he kept four or five consecutive decades of black nightclubs and beer joints laughing and drinking and dancing, a feat that thus far as defied scholarly replication in the laboratory. A perfect example of how truly sophisticated blues is in its “primitive” forms, Lightnin’ Hopkins was unfettered by twelve-bar structures. He was playing according to the way the late afternoon sunlight came smiling across the barroom floor, according to exactly how many Jax beers the drummer drank between sets, according to how he felt; according to nothing and nobody but Lightnin’ Hopkins.