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"Blind" Blake (born Arthur Blake or Arthur Phelps,

around 1893, Jacksonville, Florida; died: 1933) was a prolific ragtime  blues singer and guitarist. He is known "The King of Ragtime Guitar".

He put out around 80 songs for Paramount from 1926 to 1932. He was an accomplished guitarists of his style with a astonishingly diverse repertoire. He is well known for his rhythmic guitar sound that sounded like ragtime piano.

Unfortunately, here is only one photograph of him existing.

Not a lot is known about Blake. His place of birth is shown as Jacksonville, Florida by Paramount  but that its not certain.

On one song he lapses into a Geechee way of speaking, which could lead us that he was from the coastal region of Georgia.

Nothing is known of the circumstances surrounding his death and we are not even sure of his correct name. According to some, his proper name was Arthur Phelps, although there is no real, written evidence of this.

The "Phelps" name probably came about after he responded to Blind Willie McTell in a conversation in 1955 in Atlanta, where Blake was never reported to have frequented; neither did Willie McTell ever live in or near Chicago.

However, many of Blake's tracks were copyrighted by the name 'Arthur Blake', and during his recording with Papa Charlie Jackson, "Papa Charlie and Blind Blake Talk About It", the following words are clearly heard:

Jackson: What is your right name?

Blake: My right name is Arthur Blake!


Jim Bruce performs the rhythmic finger picking picking
pattern of Blake's ragtime guitar in 'Southern Rag'.


big-bill-broonzy-learn-blues-guitar
Broonzy
 
blind-blake-ragtime-blues-guitar
Blind Blake
 
willie-mctell-georgia-blues-guitarist
Willie McTell
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Muddy Waters

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Robert Johnson

reverend-gary-davis-ragtime-and-gospel-fingerpicking-guitar
Gary Davis


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Floyd Council

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Pink Anderson

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Doc Watson
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Blind Boy Fuller

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Lightnin' Hopkins

Ragtime Guitar Master

Blake first recorded in 1926 and the sold really well. The very first solo track was "Early Morning Blues" and "West Coast Blues" was on the other side. These are great examples of his guitar technique and are the basis for the growing Piedmont blues style.

Blake last entered the studio in 1932, Paramount's bankruptcy accelerated the end of his career . People often say that the later songs don't have the same 'panache'.

By all accounts, Blind Blake drank a lot during his last years. Maybe this caused an early death at 40 years of age. Nobody know how he died; Reverend Gary Davis thought that Blake was knocked down and killed by a streetcar.

Blake's complicated and delicate finger style has been the inspiration Reverend Gary Davis, and many others.



Blake's Amazing Guitar Finger Picking Technique

It's not known if Blake was taught by a previous master, or how he formed his idiosyncratic playing style. Of course, many guitar players had a complex and rhythmic guitar technique, but not many were so accurate and quick as Blake.

In his musical presentations, regardless of the key, the formations he used were often strikingly simple. His left hand fretting fingers were good at damping the bass string sound and that movement is vita when finger picking rapidly. It seems to me his picking hand (the right) was the most important, but of course both hands coordinate to make that wonderful sound.

His finger picking patterns could be separated into these parts
– rolling thumb strikes , rapid finger triplets and single string runs picked with alternating thumb and finger. It’s true that other players had these techniques, but Blake used these techniques continuously throughout his songs, forming complicated and syncopated combinations.

His thumb action in  should be a particular subject of  students starting to learn how to play blues guitar in the ragtime blues style. Many guitar players know the picking pattern called ‘alternating bass’. However, Blake would roll his thumb between two bass strings, forming two beats instead of one! Also, he could change the picking pattern and reverse it in mid flow, which exemplifies Blake's incredible dexterity.


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