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He was born in De Valls Bluff, Arkansas, United States, to a musical family - his father, Luddie Stidham played with Jimmie Lunceford and his uncle with the Memphis Jug Band. Arbie Stidham learned to play harmonica, clarinet and saxophone as a child. Before his teens he had formed his own band, the Southern Syncopators, which backed Bessie Smith on tour in 1930-31, and played on radio and in clubs in Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee.
In the mid-1940s he moved to Chicago and met Lester Melrose, who signed him to RCA Victor in 1947. His biggest hit, "My Heart Belongs to You", was recorded at his first session, and reached # 1 on the US Billboard R&B chart in June 1948. He spent the rest of his career trying to emulate its success, recording for Checker, States, and other independent record labels as a jazz-influenced blues vocalist. After a car accident made it impossible to play the saxophone, he took up the guitar in the 1950s under the tutelage of Big Bill Broonzy, and played it on his early 1960s recordings for Folkways.
Stidham continued to record occasionally up to the early 1970s, and also made many music festival and club appearances nationwide and internationally. He lectured on the blues at Cleveland State University in the 1970s, and appeared in the film The Bluesman in 1973.
- More information at Allaboutjazz.com
- Arbee Stidham at Authenticblues.com
- Stidham's Discography on Folkways.si.edu