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He was born in De Valls Bluff, Arkansas, 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 the 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 1930–1931 and played on the radio and in clubs in Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee.
In the mid-1940s Stidham 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 number one on the Billboard R&B chart in June 1948. He spent the rest of his career trying to achieve the same success, recording for Checker, States, and other independent record labels as a jazz-influenced blues vocalist.
Injuries he suffered in a car accident in the 1950s made it impossible for him to play the saxophone, so he took up the guitar, under the tutelage of Big Bill Broonzy, and played it on his early 1960s recordings for Folkways.
He recorded occasionally until the early 1970s and appeared at music festivals and clubs in the U.S. and abroad. He lectured on the blues at Cleveland State University in the 1970s. He appeared in the film The Bluesman in 1973.
- Ron Wynn (1917-02-09). "Arbee Stidham | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
- "Arbee Stidham | Chess Treasures". Treasurechess.wordpress.com. 2013-05-12. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Record Research. p. 552. ISBN 978-0898201604.
- "Arbee Stidham". SecondHandSongs. 1917-02-09. Retrieved 2015-10-06.