Big Maceo Merriweather

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Major "Big Maceo" Merriweather (March 31, 1905 – February 23, 1953) was an American Chicago blues pianist and singer, active in Chicago in the 1940s.[1]


Born in Atlanta, Georgia, United States,[2] he was a self-taught pianist. In the 1920s he moved to Detroit, Michigan to begin his music career. He moved to Chicago in 1941, where he made the acquaintance of Tampa Red.[3] Red introduced him to Lester Melrose of Bluebird Records, who signed him to a recording contract.[4]

His first record was "Worried Life Blues" (1941), which promptly became a blues hit and remained his signature piece. Other classic piano blues recordings such as "Chicago Breakdown", "Texas Stomp", and "Detroit Jump" followed.[4] His piano style developed from players like Leroy Carr and Roosevelt Sykes, as well as from the Boogie-woogie style of Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons. He in turn influenced other musicians like Henry Gray, who credits Merriweather to helping him launch his career as a blues pianist.

His style had an impact on practically every post World War II blues pianist of note.[3] His most famous song, "Worried Life Blues" is a staple of the blues repertoire, with artists such as Eric Clapton featuring it regularly in concert.[5] "Worried Life Blues" was in the first batch of songs inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame "Classic Blues Recordings - Singles or Albums Tracks" alongside "Stormy Monday," 'Sweet Home Chicago," "Dust My Broom," and "Hellhound on My Trail."[6]

He suffered a stroke in 1946[3] and died of a heart attack on February 23, 1953 in Chicago, and was interred at the Detroit Memorial Cemetery in Warren, Michigan.[2]

His recordings for Bluebird were released in a double album set as Chicago Breakdown, in 1975. They have since been reissued on a variety of labels.[2]

In 2002 he was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

On May 3, 2008 the White Lake Blues Festival took place at the Howmet Playhouse Theater in Whitehall, Michigan. The event was organized by executive producer, Steve Salter, of the nonprofit organization Killer Blues to raise monies to honor Merriweather's unmarked grave with a headstone. The concert was a success, and a headstone was placed in June, 2008.


  • Collection 'Jazz Classics' N° 22 (RCA, 1961)
  • Black & White Vol. 9 (RCA, 1969)
  • Big Maceo with Tampa Red in Chicago 1941 - 1946 (Sunflower, 1970)
  • Chicago Breakdown (RCA, 1975)
  • Bluebird n°2 : Big Maceo Vol. 1 (RCA, 1976)
  • The Best of Big Maceo Vol. 1-2 (Arhoolie, 1984)
  • Tampa Red/Big Maceo: Get It Cats! (Swingtime, 1989)
  • The King of Chicago Blues Piano (Arhoolie, 1993)
  • Worried Life Blues (Orbis, 1995)
  • The Bluebird Recordings (RCA, 1997)
  • The Essential Recordings of Tampa Red and Big Maceo (Indigo, 1999)
  • The Best of Big Maceo with Tampa Red (Blues Forever, 2001)
  • Chicago Piano Vol. 1-2 (Fabulous, 2003)
  • Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order Volume One/Two (Document, 2004)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5. 
  2. ^ a b c "All About Jazz". All About Jazz. Retrieved 19 January 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues - From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 91. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 
  4. ^ a b [1] Archived October 27, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Cascade Blues Association". Retrieved 19 January 2015. 
  6. ^ "1983 Blues Hall Of Fame Inductees". Retrieved 2008-08-29. 

External links[edit]