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David "Honeyboy" Edwards

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David "Honeyboy" Edwards
Edwards performing in July 2006
Edwards performing in July 2006
Background information
Birth nameDavid Edwards
Also known asMr. Honey
Born(1915-06-28)June 28, 1915
Shaw, Mississippi, U.S.
DiedAugust 29, 2011(2011-08-29) (aged 96)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
GenresDelta blues
  • Musician
  • songwriter
Years active1930s–2011

David "Honeyboy" Edwards (June 28, 1915 – August 29, 2011) was an American delta blues guitarist and singer from Mississippi.[1]


Edwards was born in Shaw, Mississippi.[2] He learned to play music from his father, a guitarist and violinist.[3] At the age of 14, he left home to travel with the bluesman Big Joe Williams, beginning life as an itinerant musician, which he maintained through the 1930s and 1940s. He performed with the famed blues musician Robert Johnson, with whom he developed a close friendship. Edwards was present on the night Johnson drank the poisoned whiskey that killed him,[4] and his story has become the definitive version of Johnson's demise. Edwards also knew and played with other leading bluesmen in the Mississippi Delta, including 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.[5]

Edwards in performance, Somerset, Kentucky, July 19, 2008

The folklorist Alan Lomax recorded Edwards in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1942 for the Library of Congress.[2] Edwards recorded 15 album sides of music,[2] including his songs "Wind Howlin' Blues" and "The Army Blues".[6] He did not record commercially until 1951, when he recorded "Who May Be Your Regular Be" for Arc under the name Mr. Honey.[2] Edwards claimed 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.[6] From 1974 to 1977, he recorded tracks for his first full-length LP, I've Been Around, released in 1978 by the independent label Trix Records[7] and produced by the ethnomusicologist Peter B. Lowry. Kansas City Red played for Edwards for a brief period, and Earwig recorded them in 1981, along with Sunnyland Slim and Floyd Jones, for the album Old Friends Together for the First Time.[8]

His autobiography, The World Don't Owe Me Nothing: The Life and Times of Delta Bluesman Honeyboy Edwards, published in 1997 by the Chicago Review Press,[9] recounts his life from childhood, his travels through the American South, and his arrival in Chicago in the early 1950s. A companion CD with the same title was released by Earwig Music. His long association with the Earwig label and with his manager, Michael Frank, led to several late-career albums on various independent labels from the 1980s on. He also recorded at a church turned recording studio in Salina, Kansas, and released albums on the APO label. Edwards continued the rambling life he described in his autobiography, touring well into his 90s.

Between 1996 and 2000, he was nominated for eight W. C. Handy/Blues Music Awards, including for his albums White Windows, The World Don't Owe Me Nothin', Mississippi Delta Blues Man, and a 2007 album on which he appears with Robert Lockwood Jr., Henry Townsend and Pinetop Perkins titled Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live In Dallas.[10] The latter album won a Grammy Award in 2008.[11] He also won the W. C. Handy Blues Award in 2005 and the Blues Music Award in 2007 for Acoustic Blues Artist.[10] In 2010, he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.[11]

On July 17, 2011, Frank announced that Edwards would retire because of ill health.[12]

Edwards died of congestive heart failure at his home on August 29, 2011, at about 3 a.m.[1][13] According to events listings on the Metromix Chicago website, he had been scheduled to perform at noon that day, at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago's Millennium Park.[14]


Edwards and band
Edwards at the Adams Avenue Roots Festival, San Diego, 2005
Edwards and Pinetop Perkins at the Master Musicians Festival, Somerset, Kentucky, July 19, 2008
Edwards 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)
  • Mississippi Delta Bluesman (Folkways Records, 1979)
  • Old Friends (Earwig, 1979)
  • White Windows (Blue Suit, 1988)
  • Delta Bluesman (Earwig/Indigo, 1992)
  • Crawling Kingsnake (Testament, 1997)
  • World Don't Owe Me Nothing, recorded live (Earwig, 1997)
  • Don't Mistreat a Fool (Genes, 1999)
  • Shake 'Em On Down (APO, 2000)
  • Mississippi Delta Bluesman (reissue of 1979 album: 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]

Edwards is the subject of 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 his 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.[15]

Awards and honors[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Friskics-Warren, Bill (August 29, 2011). "David Honeyboy Edwards, Delta Bluesman, Dies at 96". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b c d e Edwards biographical page Archived May 30, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. Allaboutjazz.com. Accessed February 2008.
  3. ^ "David 'Honeyboy' Edwards: Blues guitarist/singer". www.arts.gov. National Endowment for the Arts. n.d. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  4. ^ Guralnick, Peter (1989). Searching for Robert Johnson.
  5. ^ Palmer, Robert (1981). Deep Blues.
  6. ^ a b Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. p. 109. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
  7. ^ David "Honeyboy" Edwards (1978). I've Been Around (LP). Rosendale, New York: Trix Records. LCCN 95-789435. OCLC 26434901. 3319.
  8. ^ "Old Friends". Discogs.com. November 15, 1981. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  9. ^ Edwards, David Honeyboy; Martinson, Janis; Frank, Michael Robert (1997). The World Don't Owe Me Nothing: The Life and Times of Delta Bluesman Honeyboy Edwards. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press. ISBN 9781556522758. LCCN 97-2599. OCLC 36824690. OL 657465M.
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Award Winners and Nominees [search]". blues.org. The Blues Foundation. 2021. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  11. ^ a b c d "Artist: David 'Honeyboy' Edwards". www.grammy.com. Recording Academy. n.d. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  12. ^ Marshal, Matt (2011). "David 'Honeyboy' Edwards Retires" Archived September 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. American Blues Scene. 17 July 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  13. ^ "David Honeyboy Edwards". Retrieved August 30, 2011.
  14. ^ "Events for August 29, 2011". Chicago.metromix.com. Retrieved August 29, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ "Full Cast of Walk Hard". IMDb.com. January 9, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2012.
  16. ^ "NEA National Heritage Fellowships 2002". www.arts.gov. National Endowment for the Arts. Archived from the original on May 21, 2020. Retrieved January 1, 2021.

External links[edit]