"Blind" Blake
(born Arthur Blake or Arthur Phelps, around 1893, Jacksonville, Florida; died: 1933) was an 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.

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'.

Unfortunately, here is only one photograph of him existing.

He 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.

Author: Jim Bruce 
Date: 2014-07-19
Category: Music

Jim Bruce Guitar Lessons Home Page

Copyright (c) Youtune Records
Jim Bruce Videos
Privacy Policy