Blake Alphonso Higgs
|Blake Alphonso Higgs|
|Birth name||Blake Alphonso Higgs|
|Also known as||Blind Blake|
|Origin||Matthew Town, Inagua, Bahamas|
For much of his career, Blind Blake was based at the Royal Victoria Hotel in Nassau. Included in his wide repertoire was "Love, Love Alone", a song (by Trinidadian calypsonian Caresser) about the abdication of Edward VIII. Blind Blake's version of this calypso is said to have been enjoyed by the former king himself, who, as the Duke of Windsor, served as Governor of the Bahamas during World War II.
Higgs played banjo and sang, releasing four albums during his tenure at the Royal Victoria Hotel, one with singer Lou Adams, and several other lesser albums towards the end of his career. His first four albums were released on Floridian label Art, including a 10" with Lou Adams.
Although Higgs was never famous in his own right, his music has been covered by the likes of Dave Van Ronk ("Yes, Yes, Yes", although the original is actually called "The Duck's Yas-Yas-Yas", a 1929 hit by blues pianist-singer James "Stump" Johnson, also successfully recorded by Oliver Cobb that same year), Pete Seeger ("Foolish Frog"), Lord Mouse and the Kalypso Katz ("Tomatoes"), The Percentie Brothers ("Goombay Drums") and perhaps most famously The Beach Boys, who covered his 1952 recording of the Caribbean folk song "John B Sail" ("Wreck of the John B") and called it "Sloop John B".
His style was a mix of Dixieland jazz, calypso/goombay, and American folk, probably because of the close proximity the Bahamas has to the USA. For several decades, he was arguably the most important figure in the Bahamian tourist entertainment industry. One of his most famous songs, the medley "Little Nassau/Peas and Rice", written during the US prohibition era, is about the easy access to alcoholic beverages in Nassau, then complaining of the locals' frustration with a diet of peas and rice.
His ballad "Run Come See Jerusalem" is of particular interest as it describes an historical event of the 1929 Bahamas Hurricane and has been covered by many artists in the 1950-60s Folk Revival. It can be heard in a vintage recording with Blind Blake leading on YouTube.
- Blind Blake and the Royal Victoria Hotel "Calypso" Orchestra: A Group of Bahamian Songs (1951)
- Blind Blake and the Royal Victoria Hotel "Calypso" Orchestra: A Second Album of Bahamian Songs (1952)
- Blind Blake and the Royal Victoria Hotel "Calypso" Orchestra: A Third Album of Bahamian Songs (1952)
- Lou Adams Plays Bahamiana Calypso featuring vocals by Blind Blake (1952)
- Blind Blake and the Royal Victoria Hotel "Calypso" Orchestra: A Fifth Album of Bahamian Songs (1952)
- A Cultural Experience (with Pandora Gibson) (1976)
- Blind Blake & The Royal Victoria Hotel Calypsos: Bahamian Songs (2009)
- Bahamas Goombay 1951-1959, a vintage Bahamas music anthology (Frémeaux et Associés, 2011)
- Calypso - The Dance Master Classics 1944–1958, an international calypso anthology featuring Blind Blake's rare "A Conch Ain't Got No Bones" and other songs of his (Frémeaux et Associés, 2011).
- See the Bahamas Goombay 1951–1959 anthology (scroll down to read English version of the detailed, very informative booklet with full Blind Blake biography by noted music historian Bruno Blum).
- on YouTube
- See the Calypso - The Dance Master Classics 1944–1958 album.
- See the Calypso - The Dance Master Classics 1944–1958 anthology (scroll down to read English version of the detailed booklet by noted music historian Bruno Blum).