Huddie Ledbetter was born near Mooringsport, Louisiana on January 21, 1885. He died December 6, 1949, seven days prior to the day I was born. Cause of death was a muscular-deteriorating disease. He never saw even a glimmer of commercial success during his lifetime, but after his death several of his songs became popular hits. "The Midnight Special," Goodnight Irene, "Cotton Fields," and "Rock Island Line" are a few.
He may well be the most widely known of all the blues/folk artists. I'll never forget the first time I heard him. It was at a girl's house when I was in my late teens. The popular folk group at the time was Peter, Paul and Mary. We were listening to their Album 1700> from 1967. I was all caught up in "Whatshername" and "Leaving on a Jet Plane," then I noticed that this girl's parents had a Leadbelly album.
He called himself the king of all of the 12-string guitar players in the world. That may have been overstatement. But he played 6 and 12-string guitar as well as harp, accordion, piano, and mandolin. He sang blues, field hollers, children's songs along with many of his own topical songs. It has been said his repertoire was at least 500 songs.
For a time he was teamed up with the legendary Blind Lemon Jefferson and the two of them became well known as street performers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Leadbelly's work influenced many artists: Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, The Weavers, Brownie McGee & Sonny Terry, and me.