R. L. Burnside - Long Haired Doney - Classic Blues Videos
solo on acoustic guitar in 1984
Delta Blues guitar master R. L. Burnside performs "Long Haired Doney" solo on acoustic guitar in 1984.
Robert Lee Burnside was born on November 23, 1926 in Harmontown,
Mississippi. Burnside moved to Marshall County, Mississippi at a young
age and spent his most of his childhood working as a sharecropper and a
fisherman. R. L. didn't even begin to play guitar until he was in his
twenties and was inspired to pick up the instrument when he heard a
recording of John Lee Hooker performing "Boogie Chillin". Burnside
learned to play in part from Mississippi Fred McDowell who lived in the
area and was also influenced by his cousin-in-law, Muddy Waters. R. L.
moved to Chicago in the 1950s hoping to find work that would improve his
quality of life but found things there to be difficult too. Within one
year while in Chicago his father, brother and uncle were all murdered
and as you might imagine he would hold that with him throughout his life
and draw upon that experience in his music.
Burnside moved back down south in 1959 after all he had been through and settled down back in Mississippi to raise a family. R. L. still played his guitar locally and often with Kenny Brown but it wasn't until the late 1960s that he made his first recordings on Arhoolie Records and it wasn't until the '80s that he recorded again with the album "Mississippi Hill Country Blues" in 1984. In the 1990s Burnside appeared in the film "Deep Blues" and Jon Spencer of Jon Spencer's Blues Explosion took notice and invited R. L. to come on tour with him. This helped Burnside reach a whole new generation of Blues lovers and R. L. recorded "A Ass Pocket of Whiskey" in 1996 with Spencer backing. He followed that album with "Mr. Wizard" in 1997 and "Come On In" in 1998 and pushed the Blues forward in doing so by introducing elements of electronic music into his own. Burnside lost close friend Junior Kimbrough in 1998 and it shook him up pretty badly and he stopped recording for Fat Possum Records. A few years later in 2001 R. L. suffered a heart attack and was unable to play again. R. L. Burnside passed away in 2005 at the age of seventy eight.
R. L. Burnside leaves a wonderful legacy as a master of the Delta Blues Guitar and an amazing singer and song writer as well. Some of the honors he has received include three W.C. Handy Blues Awards and two of them were for Traditional Male Artist of the Year. I will add, because I can, R. L. deserves many more. His raw, funky guitar grooves combined with his sweet voice gets me every time. It amazes me how hard the man can groove solo on an acoustic guitar and I can't sit still while I listen to him play. Burnside may not be with us physically any longer but his music will live for a long, long time.