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David “Honeyboy” Edwards

June 28, 1915 – August 29, 2011

Honeyboy is the featured artist on these Earwig CDs: Delta Bluesman (4922), The World Don’t Owe Me Nothing (4940), and Roamin’ And Ramblin’  (4953).   He plays and sings on Old Friends (4902), Goin’ Back In The Times (4929), Don’t Let The Devil In (4958) and The Blues Sessions (4962).

David “Honeyboy” Edwards  was born June 28, 1915 in Shaw, Mississippi, and passed away on August 29, 2011 at his home in Chicago, Illinois. Honeyboy was one of the last living links to Robert Johnson, and one of the last original acoustic Delta blues players. Over the course of his 39-year association with Earwig Music Company and owner Michael Frank, Honeyboy went from a lesser known figure in the blues world to a living legend, and his personal odyssey is truly legendary. He was the epitome of a Delta bluesman, the real deal. He toured world-wide, playing many clubs, theatres and festivals, and appearing in many documentaries about the Blues and about American music.

Honeyboy was a part of many of the seminal moments of the blues.  As Honeyboy wrote in “The World Don’t Own Me Nothing”, “…it was in ’29 when Tommy Johnson come down from Crystal Springs, Mississippi. He was just a little guy, tan colored, easy-going; but he drank a whole lot. At nighttime, we’d go there and listen to Tommy Johnson play.” Honeyboy continues, ” Listening to Tommy, that’s when I really learned something about how to play guitar.”

Honeyboy’s life was intertwined with almost every major blues legend, including Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Big Joe Williams, Rice “Sonny Boy Williamson” Miller, Howlin’ Wolf, Peetie Wheatstraw, Sunnyland Slim, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Walter, Little Walter Jacobs,  Magic Sam, Muddy Waters, and … well, let’s just say the list goes on darn near forever!

In 1942, Alan Lomax recorded Honeyboy in Clarksdale, Mississippi for the Library of Congress. He recorded a total of fifteen sides of Honeyboy’s music.

Honeyboy didn’t record again commercially until 1951, when he  recorded “Who May Your Regular Be” and “Build A Cave” for Artist Recording Company in Houston, Texas. His recording name was ‘Mr. Honey’. These tracks were reissued in the early 1970s on Arhoolie Records subsidiary label, Blues Classics.

Moving to Chicago in the early fifties, Honeyboy played small clubs and street corners with Floyd Jones, Johnny Temple, and Kansas City Red. In 1953, Honeyboy  recorded several songs for Chess that remained un-issued until “Drop Down Mama” was included in an anthology release of the same name, issued in 1970. He cut tracks in Chicago for Producer Pete Welding in 1964 and 1967 for Milestone, which were released for the first time on Testament Records in the mid 1990s. By that time, Testament was a subsidiary of High-Tone Records. He also cut tracks for Adelphi Records in 1969, some of which were released on the 1970 double LP “Really Chicago’s Blues”, and in the early 1990s on Adelphi’s subsidiary label Genes CDS.

In 1972, Honeyboy met Michael Frank, and the two soon became fast friends. In 1976, they hit the North Side Blues scene as The Honeyboy Edwards Blues Band, as well as performing as a duo on occasion. Michael founded Earwig Records, and in 1979 Honeyboy and his friends Sunnyland Slim, Kansas City Red, Floyd Jones, and Big Walter Horton recorded “Old Friends”, as the second release on Michael’s Earwig Music Company label.

Honeyboy’s early Library of Congress performances and new recordings from 1979 and 1990 were combined on “Delta Bluesman”, released by Earwig in 1992. Honeyboy also recorded a companion cd on Earwig in conjunction with his Autobiography “The World Don’t Owe Me Nothing”, both released in 1997. His book was a recipient of the Blues Foundation’s Keeping the Blues Alive Award (KBA) in Literature, and is widely considered one of the most important books on the blues, and one of the few first hand accounts of a bluesman’s life and times.

His 2008 release, “Roamin and Ramblin”, on the Earwig Music label, featured Honeyboy’s old school guitar and vocals – fresh takes on old gems and first time release of historic recordings. New 2007 sessions with harmonica greats Bobby Rush, Billy Branch and Johnny “Yard Dog” Jones, previously unreleased 1975 studio recordings of Honeyboy and Big Walter Horton, and circa 1976 concert tracks — solo and with Sugar Blue. Michael Frank, Paul Kaye, Rick Sherry and Kenny Smith also play on the album on various tracks. Honeyboy and Bobby Rush also tell some short blues tales.

Honeyboy was awarded a 2008 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album, and in 2010 was awarded a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement. He was also honored over the years with many other awards. He continued to tour world-wide through April 2011, playing his last 2 shows in Clarksdale, Mississippi during the Juke Joint Festival.

He succumbed to heart failure, and died at home August 29, 2011. His manager and friends started the Honeyboy Edwards Fund for Blues Education, a scholarship and advocacy organization, to keep his legacy alive.