July 7, 1913 – March 21, 2011–Pinetop Perkins began playing blues in the late 1920s, and was widely regarded as one of the best — and certainly most enduring — blues pianists. He forged a style that influenced three generations of piano players, and continues to be the yardstick by which great blues pianists are measured.
Born Willie Perkins in Belzoni, Mississippi in 1913, Pinetop started out playing guitar and piano at house parties and honky-tonks, but dropped the guitar in the 1940s after sustaining a serious injury in his left arm. He worked primarily in the Mississippi Delta throughout the 1930s and ’40s, spending three years with Sonny Boy Williamson on the King Biscuit Time radio show on KFFA in Helena, Arkansas. Pinetop also toured extensively with slide guitar player Robert Nighthawk and backed him on an early Chess session. After briefly working with B.B. King in Memphis, Perkins barnstormed the South with Earl Hooker during the early ’50s. The pair completed a session for Sam Phillips’ famous Sun Records in 1953. It was at this session that he recorded his version of “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie,” a song originally written and recorded by pianist Clarence “Pinetop” Smith — the influential blues pianist who had died from a gunshot wound at age 24 in 1929. Although referred to as “Pinetop” when he played on King Biscuit in the 40s, it was his sensational version of this song that secured his lifelong nickname.
Although he has enjoyed success as a solo artist since the 1980s, Pinetop is known for holding down the piano chair in the great Muddy Waters Band for twelve years during the pinnacle of Muddy’s career. Replacing Otis Spann in 1969, Pinetop helped shape the Waters sound and anchored Muddy’s memorable combo throughout the seventies with his brilliant piano solos. In 1980, Pinetop and other members of Muddy’s crew struck out on their own and formed the Legendary Blues Band — a group that recorded two records for Rounder and toured extensively, culling several GRAMMY® nominations.
Perkins won a Grammy for best traditional blues album “Joined at the Hip: Pinetop Perkins & Willie “Big Eyes” Smith.” That win made Perkins the oldest Grammy winner, edging out late comedian George Burns, who was 95 when he won in the spoken category for “Gracie: A Love Story” in 1990.
Pinetop Perkins passed away peacefully at home on Monday, March 21, 2011 in Austin, TX at the age of 97.
YT Video: Blues Piano Sheets - Blues piano sheet music for “Pinetop Blues” and more…
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