David "Honeyboy" Edwards

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David "Honeyboy" Edwards
David "Honeyboy" Edwards.jpg
Edwards performing in July 2006
Background information
Birth name David Edwards
Also known as Honeyboy
Mr Honey
Born (1915-06-28)June 28, 1915
Shaw, Mississippi, United States
Died August 29, 2011(2011-08-29) (aged 96)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Genres Delta blues, jazz, R&B, soul, folk
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Years active 1930s–2011
Labels Earwig Music, Trix, Chess, Arc Records, APO records
Associated acts Robert Johnson, Pinetop Perkins, Henry Townsend, Robert Lockwood, Jr.
Website davidhoneyboyedwards.com

David "Honeyboy" Edwards (June 28, 1915 – August 29, 2011) was a Delta blues guitarist and singer from the American South.

Life and career[edit]

Edwards was born in Shaw, Mississippi.[1] Edwards was 14 years old when he left home to travel with blues man Big Joe Williams, beginning life as an itinerant musician which he led throughout the 1930s and 1940s. He performed with famed blues musician Robert Johnson with whom he developed a close friendship. Honeyboy was present on the night Johnson drank poisoned whiskey which killed him,[2] and his story has become the definitive version of Johnson's demise. As well as Johnson, Edwards knew and played with many of the leading bluesmen in the Mississippi Delta, which included Charley Patton, Tommy Johnson, and Johnny Shines. He described the itinerant bluesman's life:

On Saturday, somebody like me or Robert Johnson would go into one of these little towns, play for nickels and dimes. And sometimes, you know, you could be playin' and have such a big crowd that it would block the whole street. Then the police would come around, and then I'd go to another town and where I could play at. But most of the time, they would let you play. Then sometimes the man who owned a country store would give us something like a couple of dollars to play on a Saturday afternoon. We could hitchhike, transfer from truck to truck, or if we couldn't catch one of them, we'd go to the train yard, 'cause the railroad was all through that part of the country then...we might hop a freight, go to St. Louis or Chicago. Or we might hear about where a job was paying off – a highway crew, a railroad job, a levee camp there along the river, or some place in the country where a lot of people were workin' on a farm. You could go there and play and everybody would hand you some money. I didn't have a special place then. Anywhere was home. Where I do good, I stay. When it gets bad and dull, I'm gone.[3]

Edwards performing in Somerset, Kentucky, July 19, 2008.

Folklorist Alan Lomax recorded Edwards in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1942 for the Library of Congress.[1] Edwards recorded 15 album sides of music.[1] The songs included "Wind Howlin' Blues" and "The Army Blues".[4] He did not record commercially until 1951, when he recorded "Who May Be Your Regular Be" for Arc under the name of Mr Honey.[1] Edwards claims to have written several well-known blues songs including "Long Tall Woman Blues" and "Just Like Jesse James." His discography for the 1950s and 1960s amounts to nine songs from seven sessions.[4] From 1974 to 1977, he recorded material for his first full-length LP, I've Been Around, released in 1978 on the independent Trix Records label by producer/ethnomusicologist Peter B. Lowry. Kansas City Red played for him for a brief period and Earwig recorded them in 1981 along with Sunnyland Slim and Floyd Jones on the album, "Old Friends Together for the First Times".[5]

His autobiography is entitled The World Don't Owe Me Nothing: The Life and Times of Delta Bluesman Honeyboy Edwards. Published in 1997 by the Chicago Review Press, the narrative recounts his life from childhood, his travels through the American South, and his arrival in Chicago in the early 1950s. A companion CD by the same title was released by Earwig Music shortly afterwards. His long association with the Earwig label and manager Michael Frank spawned many late career albums on a variety of independent labels from the 1980s on. He has also recorded at a Church turned-recording studio in Salina, Kansas and released albums on the APO record label Edwards continued the rambling life he describes in his autobiography as he still toured the world well into his 90s.

On July 17, 2011 his manager Michael Frank announced that Edwards would be retiring due to ongoing health issues.[6]

On August 29, 2011 Edwards died at his home, of congestive heart failure, at approx. 3 a.m.[7] According to events listings on the Metromix Chicago website, Edwards had been scheduled to perform at noon that day, at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago's Millennium Park.[8]


Honeyboy Edwards and band
Honeyboy Edwards at the Adams Avenue Roots Festival in San Diego in 2005
David "Honeyboy" Edwards and Pinetop Perkins in Somerset, KY at the Master Musicians Festival, July 19, 2008
Performing with Devil in a Woodpile at the Hideout, Chicago.
  • "Build A Cave"/"Who May Be Your Regular Be" (ARC, 1951)
  • "Drop Down Mama" (Chess, 1953)
  • I've Been Around (Trix Records, 1978; 1995)
  • Old Friends (Earwig, 1979)
  • White Windows (Blue Suit, 1988)
  • Delta Bluesman (Earwig/Indigo, 1992)
  • Crawling Kingsnake (Testament, 1997)
  • World Don't Owe Me Nothing [live] (Earwig, 1997)
  • Don't Mistreat a Fool (Genes, 1999)
  • Shake 'Em on Down (APO, 2000)
  • Mississippi Delta Bluesman (Smithsonian Folkways Records, 2001
  • Back to the Roots (Wolf, 2001)
  • Roamin' and Ramblin (Earwig, 2008)


In the 1991 documentary The Search for Robert Johnson, Edwards recounts stories about Johnson, including his murder.[citation needed]

The story of Edwards' own life is told in the 2010 award-winning film Honeyboy and the History of the Blues from Free Range Studios, directed by Scott Taradash. The film features stories of Edwards' life from picking cotton as a sharecropper to traveling the world performing his music. Artists who appear in the film include Keith Richards, Robert Cray, Joe Perry, Lucinda Williams, B.B. King, Big Joe Williams, and Ace Atkins.[citation needed]

Edwards appeared in the 2007 film, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.[9]

Awards and achievement[edit]

  • 1996: Inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame[1]
  • 1998: Keeping the Blues Alive Award in literature for The World Don't Owe Me Nothing
  • 2002: National Endowment for the Arts, National Heritage Fellowship Award
  • 2005: Acoustic Blues-Artist of the Year (26th W.C. Handy Blues Awards)
  • 2007: Acoustic Artist of the Year (The Blues Music Awards)
  • 2008: Grammy Award; Best Traditional Blues Album for Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live In Dallas
  • 2010: Lifetime Achievement Award, Grammy; Mississippi Governor's Awards For Excellence in the Arts
  • 2010: Lifetime Achievement Award, National Guitar Museum

His albums White Windows, The World Don't Owe Me Nothin', Mississippi Delta Blues Man, and a recent album in which he appears with Robert Lockwood, Jr., Henry Townsend and Pinetop Perkins, Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live In Dallas,[10] were all nominated for the W. C. Handy Award. The latter album also won a Grammy Award in 2008.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Edwards biographical page, allaboutjazz.com; accessed February 2008.
  2. ^ Guralnick, Peter. Searching for Robert Johnson, 1989.
  3. ^ Palmer, Robert. Deep Blues, 1981.
  4. ^ a b Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 109. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 
  5. ^ "Old Friends". Discogs.com. Discogs. Retrieved September 17, 2014. 
  6. ^ Matt Marshall. "David 'Honeyboy' Edwards Retires". American Blues Scene. 17 July 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  7. ^ "David Honeyboy Edwards". Retrieved August 30, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Events for August 29, 2011". chicago.metromix.com. Retrieved August 29, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Full cast of Walk Hard". IMDb.com. January 9, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2012. 
  10. ^ Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen – Live in Dallas @ myspace.com

External links[edit]