Sam John Hopkins, who was born 15th March 1912 and died on 30th January 1982, and better known as Lightnin’ Hopkins, an American country blues singer, songwriter, guitarist and occasional pianist, from Houston, Texas.
The enduring musical journey of Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins began on a cotton farm in Centerville,Texas in 1912. He was drawn to the music he heard played by an older brother. After meeting up with Dallas bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson, Sam left the hardscrabble life of the Texas cotton fields, determined to play his way to better circumstances. Possessing a sharp wit and a unique ability for endless improvisation, Lightnin became a master storyteller. He was able to convey profound truths about the human condition via poetic imagery. The “Po’ Lightnin” that inhabited his tales of struggle and misery became the “Everyman” that black audiences identified with and white audiences flocked to performances to experience. Whether playing on a street corner on Dowling Street or at Carnegie Hall his style defined Texas blues. He sounded like no one else yet influenced every one. His unique musical style influenced generations of blues, rock, country and soul musicians as well as filmmakers, writers and painters.
Lightnin' Hopkins died in Houston on the 30th January 1982 at the age of 69.
A true giant in blues history, Sam “Lightnin'” Hopkins cut an imposing figure on the Texas blues scene and set standards across the country for postwar down-home blues. His work not only influenced countless country bluesmen but also many of the younger urban blues stylists who considered him the epitome of “cool.” Born in Centerville, Texas, on March 15, 1912, according to most bios (or 1911 according to other data), Hopkins began his recording career in the company of pianist “Thunder” Smith in 1946 for Aladdin Records. Some of his subsequent records for Modern, Gold Star, Aladdin and Sittin' In With hit the Billboard R&B charts from 1949 to 1952. He recorded electric country blues and boogies for the black R&B market as well as acoustic guitar albums for the folk market; throughout a lengthy and prolific recording career he was a consistent, engaging, and immediately identifiable artist who made dozens of outstanding records. Whether traditional or topical, acoustic or electric, whether recording solo or with a small combo, Hopkins was a natural: a master musician, singer and blues poet/storyteller. His songs might hark back to Blind Lemon Jefferson or they might deal with the latest breaking news. According to producers who recorded him in the 1960s and afterwards, Hopkins had his own rules for recording sessions: he insisted on being paid in cash for each song, one song at a time, and each song would only be performed once. As famous and successful as he was in music, Hopkins, who was usually seen wearing dark shades, considered gambling to be his true profession, and no doubt he was as slick an operator with the cards as he was with his guitar. Hopkins died in Houston on Jan. 30, 1982. Jim O'Neal (Revised from O'Neal's entry in the first edition of The All Music Guide.)
1963 - Blues Hoot (Vee-Jay Records; live at The Ash Grove 1961 with Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, and Big Joe Williams)
1963 - Smokes Like Lightnin' (Bluesville)
1963 - Goin' Away (Bluesville)
1964 - Down Home Blues (Bluesville)
1964 - Coffee House Blues" with Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee,(VJ Records VJLP-1138 Stereo)
1965 - Hootin' the Blues (Bluesville)
1965 - Lightnin' Strikes (Tradition)
1965 - The Roots of Lightnin' Hopkins (Verve Folkways)
1966 - Soul Blues (Bluesville)
1967 - My Life in the Blues (Bluesville)
1967 - Original Folk Blues (Kent Records)
1967 - Lightnin'! (Arhoolie Records)
1968 - Freeform Patterns (International Artists)
1969 - California Mudslide (and Earthquake) (Vault records slp129)
1991 - Swarthmore Concert Live, 1964
1991 - Sittin' in with Lightnin' Hopkins (Mainstream Records)
1991 - The Hopkins Bros. (Arhoolie Records, with his brothers Joel and John Henry)
1991 - The Complete Aladdin Recordings (EMI Blues Series)
1992 - Lonesome Life (Home Cooking/Collectables)
1992 - It's a Sin to Be Rich (Gitanes Jazz Productions)
1993 - Mojo Hand: The Lightnin' Hopkins Anthology (Rhino Records)
1994 - Texas Blues (Arhoolie Records)
1995 - Po' Lightning
1999 - The Very Best of Lightnin' Hopkins (Rhino Records)
2012 - Dirty House Blues (Not Now Music)
Lightnin' Hopkins bio
Sam "Lightnin" Hopkins was a Texas country bluesman of the highest caliber whose career began in the 1920s and stretched all the way into the 1980s. Along the way, Lightnin' Hopkins watched the genre change remarkably, but he never appreciably altered his mournful Lone Star sound, which translated onto both acoustic and electric guitar. Hopkins' nimble dexterity made intricate boogie riffs seem easy, and his fascinating penchant for improvising lyrics to fit whatever situation might arise made him a beloved blues troubadour.
The Sam “Lightnin’” Hopkins statue on South Third Street memorializes the bluesman, who was born on a farm west of Crockett and played music along the avenue in the 1930s–40s when it was known as “Camp Street".