At the Riverwalk Blues Festival in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, October 1, 2006
|Birth name||Joseph William Perkins|
July 7, 1913|
Belzoni, Mississippi, United States
|Died||March 21, 2011
Austin, Texas, United States
|Instruments||Piano, vocals, keyboards|
|Labels||Blind Pig Records|
Joseph William Perkins (July 7, 1913 – March 21, 2011), known by the stage name Pinetop Perkins, was an American blues pianist. Perkins played with some of the most influential blues and rock and roll performers in American history and received numerous honors during his lifetime, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and induction into the Blues Hall of Fame.
Life and career
Perkins was born in Belzoni, Mississippi. He began his career as a guitarist, but then injured the tendons in his left arm in a fight with a choir girl in Helena, Arkansas. Unable to play guitar, Perkins switched to the piano, and also switched from Robert Nighthawk's KFFA radio program to Sonny Boy Williamson's King Biscuit Time. He continued working with Nighthawk, however, accompanying him on 1950's "Jackson Town Gal".
In the 1950s, Perkins joined Earl Hooker and began touring, stopping to record "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie" (written by Pinetop Smith) at Sam Phillips' studio in Memphis, Tennessee. ("They used to call me Pinetop," he recalled, "because I played that song.") However, Perkins was only 15 years old in 1928, when Smith originally recorded "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie".
Perkins then relocated to Illinois and left the music business until Hooker convinced him to record again in 1968. When Otis Spann left the Muddy Waters band in 1969, Perkins was chosen to replace him. He stayed for more than a decade, then left with several other musicians to form The Legendary Blues Band with Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, recording through the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.
Perkins played a brief musical cameo on the street outside Aretha's Soul Food Cafe in the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers, having an argument with John Lee Hooker over who wrote "Boom Boom." He also appeared in the 1987 movie Angel Heart as a member of guitarist Toots Sweet's band.
Although he appeared as a sideman on countless recordings, Perkins never had an album devoted solely to his artistry, until the release of After Hours on Blind Pig Records in 1988. The tour in support of the album also featured Jimmy Rogers and Hubert Sumlin.
His robust piano is fairly presented in On Top (1992), an easy-going recital of blues standards with his old Muddy Waters' associate, Jerry Portnoy on harmonica. In 1998 Perkins released the album Legends featuring guitarist Hubert Sumlin.
Perkins was driving his automobile in 2004 in La Porte, Indiana when he was hit by a train. The car was wrecked but the 91-year-old driver was not seriously hurt. Until his death, Perkins lived in Austin, Texas. He usually performed a couple of nights a week at Nuno's on Sixth Street. In 2005, Perkins received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 2008, Perkins received a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album for Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live In Dallas together with Henry James Townsend, Robert Lockwood, Jr. and David Honeyboy Edwards. He was also nominated in the same category for his solo album, Pinetop Perkins on the 88's: Live in Chicago.
The song "Hey Mr. Pinetop Perkins", performed by Perkins and Angela Strehli, played on the common misconception that Perkins wrote "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie":
- Hey Mr. Pinetop Perkins
- I got a question for you
- How'd you write that first boogie woogie
- The one they named after you
Oldest-ever Grammy winner
At the age of 97, he won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album for Joined at the Hip, an album he recorded with Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. Perkins thus became the oldest-ever Grammy winner, edging out comedian George Burns who had won in the spoken word category 21 years earlier (Perkins had tied with Burns, at the age of 90, in 2004).
A little more than a month later, Perkins died on 21 March 2011 at his home in Austin. At the time of his death, the musician had more than 20 performances booked for 2011. Shortly before that, while discussing his late career resurgence with an interviewer, he conceded, "I can't play piano like I used to either. I used to have bass rolling like thunder. I can't do that no more. But I ask the Lord, please forgive me for the stuff I done trying to make a nickel." Along with David "Honeyboy" Edwards, he was one of the last two original Mississippi Delta blues musicians, and also to have a personal knowledge of, and friendship with, Robert Johnson.
- 1976: Boogie Woogie King (recorded 1976, released 1992)
- 1977: Hard Again (Muddy Waters)
- 1988: After Hours
- 1992: Pinetop Perkins with the Blue Ice Band
- 1992: On Top
- 1993: Portrait of a Delta Bluesman
- 1995: Live Top (with the Blue Flames)
- 1996: Eye to Eye (with Ronnie Earl, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and Calvin "Fuzz" Jones)
- 1997: Born in the Delta
- 1998: Sweet Black Angel
- 1998: Legends (with Hubert Sumlin)
- 1998: Down In Mississippi
- 1999: Live at 85! (with George Kilby Jr)
- 2000: Back On Top
- 2003: Heritage of the Blues: The Complete Hightone Sessions
- 2003: All Star Blues Jam (with Bob Margolin et al.)
- 2004: Ladies Man
- 2007: 10 Days Out: Blues From The Backroads (with Kenny Wayne Shepherd and the Muddy Waters Band—Live) 
- 2008: Pinetop Perkins and Friends
- 2010: Joined At the Hip (with Willie "Big Eyes" Smith)
- 2012: Heaven (with Willie "Big Eyes" Smith on one track and liner notes by Justin O'Brien)
Pinetop Perkins at the Master Musicians Festival in Somerset, Kentucky, July 19, 2008
David "Honeyboy" Edwards and Pinetop Perkins at the Master Musicians Festival in Somerset, Kentucky
Pinetop Perkins in Austin, Texas, May 19, 2008
- Blues Hall of Fame
- List of blues musicians
- List of boogie woogie musicians
- List of Chicago blues musicians
- Chicago Blues Festival
- Long Beach Blues Festival
- Kentuckiana Blues Society
- IMDb database birth information
- Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues - From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 154. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
- Joe Willie "Pinetop" Perkins, 2000 NEA National Heritage Fellowships
- Blind Pig Records. "Blind Pig Records". Blind Pig Records. Retrieved 2011-03-22.
- "BBC News - Blues pianist Pinetop Perkins dies aged 97". Bbc.co.uk. March 22, 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-22.
- "Blues pianist Pinetop Perkins becomes oldest Grammy winner with award for 'Joined at the Hip'". 1310 News. 2011-02-14. Retrieved 2011-04-09-11.
- B.B King leads tributes to Pinetop Perkins
- "Eye to Eye". Valley Entertainment-Sledgehammer Blues. Retrieved 8 July 2010.
- "10 Days Out: Blues From The Backroads". Yahoo Music. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
- Official biography
- Pinetop Perkins at the Internet Movie Database
- CD Review of Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesman - Live in Dallas