Son House “Death Letter” with words from Dick Waterman

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sonhouseWhen young sportswriter and photographer Dick Waterman discovered the man known as Son House on a porch in Rochester, New York in 1964, he had no idea what he would find. No one had heard Son House sing or play his resonator guitar since the few sessions he recorded for the Library of Congress in the 1930s. People thought Son House was dead. But he was alive.  Oh yes he was alive.

Dick Waterman:

And he never did it the soft and easy way, he did it with an intensity. When he started a song, his eyes just rolled back, and the sweat broke out on his face, and the slide would come slashing slashing up the neck and he would sing in falsetto, his voice would flare off in falsetto, and the songs went as long as they had to. And when he ended the song his head would come forward and he would slowly come back up in the chairs and you could see he would be blinking and he would come back to you.

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Dick Waterman is a photographer, writer, promoter, manager and champion of the Blues. Dick was a sports journalism student at Boston University in the late ‘50s when he began to develop an interest in black music. His attendance of shows by newly “discovered” blues artists like Mississippi John Hurt evolved into a passion, and eventually a career as a manager and promoter. In ’64 he embarked on a quest to find the fabled, and presumed dead, powerhouse guitarist, singer and preacher Son House, a journey that took him throughout the Delta and eventually led him to a porch in Rochester, New York, where he found the legend himself. Dick persuaded Son to pick up a guitar again, and brought him back into the spotlight.

Waterman founded Avalon Productions, the first booking and promotion agency for blues artists. Soon he had befriended and was representing greats like Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, Junior Wells, Big Mama Thornton, and many more. In the late 60’s he met a young lady named Bonnie Raitt, whom he convinced to start a long successful career as a singer songwriter and blues guitarist.

Though primarily a writer and promoter, Dick greatly enjoyed photography, amassing an astounding collection of photographs taken on his journeys alongside the greatest musicians and artists of the century. In the 80’s he moved to Oxford, Mississippi and began to publish his photographs. Many of them have been recently archived in his book Between Midnight and Day: The Last Unpublished Blues Archive.

In 2000, Dick was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, he first and only non-performer to be honored as such.

His photographs can be seen and purchased at www.dickwaterman.com. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi with his wife.

Son+HouseEddie James “Son” House Jr. was a blues singer and slide player, known for his chilling, expressive style. Though initially adverse to secular music, Son began playing the blues at 25 years old, applying the emotionality of preaching to his music. Sidetracked by a stint in Parchman Farm prison, he soon began to share the stage with the legendary Charley Patton. Patton invited him to a 1930 recording session with Paramount records, and though the wax didn’t sell Son became locally famous and had great influence on Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. In ’41 he was recorded again by Alan Lomax and John Work for the Library of Congress, before putting down his instrument and fading into obscurity for over twenty years. In ’64, however, he was “rediscovered” by Dick Waterman and co, who convinced him to pick up his guitar again and take to to the stage. With the help of Al Wilson from Canned Heat, Son relearned how to play his old songs, and found success on the circuit again, playing folk festivals and recording a number of albums. Son House died in 1988.