Big Bill Broonzy

Live In Amsterdam, 1953
Big Bill Broonzy
Big Bill Broonzy

Perhaps because he died just prior to the Folk Boom and a few years before the Blues Revival, Bill Broonzy doesn’t get proper credit. Besides being the first American bluesman to tour England, where future stars of British rock and folk saw him perform, he was a major influence on Muddy Waters, who dedicated his 1960 album, Muddy Waters Sings “Big Bill,” to him.

Broonzy was a prolific songwriter, an expressive vocalist, and a facile guitarist. Raised in Arkansas, he had a rhythmic fingerpicking style that was neither Delta blues nor Eastern Seaboard ragtime. These 10 live cuts, in excellent fidelity, offer ample evidence of his command and range. The set includes the instrumentals “Caribbean Rag” and “House Rent Stomp,” as well as the spiritual “Down By The Riverside” and folk standard “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad.” Big Bill’s monotonic bass propels an uptempo rendition of the swing standard “Glory Of Love,” while “Black, Brown, And White” is part novelty, part pointed social commentary.

Broonzy lived in the Netherlands for part of the ’50s, but died back in Chicago in 1958. He was 55 years old.

This article originally appeared in VG’s April 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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