January 4, 1905|
Durant, Mississippi, United States
|Died||May 9, 1961
Chicago, Illinois, United States
|Genres||Delta blues, country blues, blues|
|Associated acts||Robert Petway|
Life and career
He made a series of recordings for Bluebird Records from 1939 through 1942 and regularly played with his friend Robert Petway. He can be heard shouting in the background on Petway's 1942 recording "Boogie Woogie Woman". McClennan made an immediate impact in 1940 with his recordings of "Shake 'Em on Down", "Bottle It Up and Go", "Whiskey Head Woman" and "New Highway No.51".
He left a powerful legacy that included "Bottle It Up and Go," "Cross Cut Saw Blues" later covered by Albert King, "My baby's gone" (covered and adapted by Moon Mullican), "Deep Blue Sea Blues" (aka "Catfish Blues"), and others whose lasting power has been evidenced through the repertoires and re-recordings of other artists. McClennan's "I'm A Guitar King" was included on the 1959 collection issued by Folkways Records, The Country Blues.
Although nothing is known of what happened to Petway, McClennan was occasionally seen in Chicago with Elmore James and Little Walter, two other artists who came from the Delta. McClennan died of bronchopneumonia in Chicago, Illinois on May 9, 1961.
In John Fahey's "Screaming and Hollerin' the Blues" there is an interview conducted with Booker Miller, who was a contemporary of Charlie Patton, he makes mention of someone who is most likely Tommy McClennan, though he does not know his name: "... and I saw another fella he put some records out, they (him and Willie Brown) be together, but he be by himself when I see him, they called him "Sugar"... I ain't never known him as nothing but Sugar, he put out a record called Bottle Up and Go... I sold him my guitar."
Bob Dylan covered Tommy McLennan's Highway 51 on his self-named debut album in 1962.
- Mississippi Blues Trail website, entry for Tommy McClennan - accessed January 2012
- Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.
- Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 139. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
- Allmusic biography - accessed January 2008
- Central Iowa Blues Society website - accessed January 2008
- Mississippi Blues Trail Website - accessed October 2013