Cephas & Wiggins

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Cephas & Wiggins were an American acoustic blues duo, composed of the guitarist John Cephas (September 4, 1930[1] – March 4, 2009)[2] and the harmonica player Phil Wiggins (born May 8, 1954).[3] They were known for playing Piedmont blues.


Both musicians were born in Washington D.C.[4] Cephas, who was 24 years older than Wiggins, grew up in Bowling Green, Virginia.[4] They first met at a jam session at the Smithsonian's Festival of American Folklife in 1976[4] and played together in Wilbert "Big Chief" Ellis's band.[5] When Ellis died, they decided to continue as a duo.[6]

In 1980, Cephas & Wiggins were recorded by the German archivists Siegfried Christmann and Axel Kustner.[7] These recordings, their first as a duo, were released the following year as a part of the Living Country Blues USA series on the German label L+R.[8] They also appeared around Washington, D.C., with the Travelling Blues Workshop, which included John Jackson, Archie Edwards, Flora Molton, and Mother Scott.[9]

Their first U.S. release, the album Dog Days of August, was issued by Flying Fish Records in 1986.

Cephas was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship in 1989.

Two more albums followed from Flying Fish. After they left the label, they released one album for the New York–based Chesky Records and four albums for Alligator Records. They toured extensively, primarily courtesy of the sponsorship of the United States Department of State.[4] They released the album Richmond Blues on Folkways Records in 2008.

Cephas died of natural causes on March 4, 2009. He was 78.[10]



  • Living Country Blues USA, vol. 1, 1981 (L+R)
  • Sweet Bitter Blues, 1984 (L+R, reissued by Evidence Records in 1994)
  • Let It Roll: Bowling Green, 1985 (Marimac)
  • Dog Days of August, 1986 (Flying Fish)
  • Guitar Man, 1987 (Flying Fish)
  • Walking Blues, 1988 (Marimac)
  • Flip, Flop & Fly, 1992 (Flying Fish)
  • Bluesmen, 1993 (Chesky)
  • Cool Down, 1996 (Alligator)
  • Homemade, 1999 (Alligator)
  • Somebody Told the Truth, 2002 (Alligator), U.S. Top Blues Albums no. 6[11]
  • Shoulder to Shoulder, 2006 (Alligator)
  • Richmond Blues, 2008 (Smithsonian Folkways)

Compilation albums[edit]

  • Goin' down the Road Feelin' Bad, 1998 (Evidence), compilation of L+R material
  • From Richmond to Atlanta, 2000 (Rounder), compilation of Flying Fish material


  1. ^ Richard Skelly. "John Cephas | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-09-07. 
  2. ^ Jay Smith (2009-03-05). "John Cephas Dies". Pollstar. Retrieved 2015-09-07. 
  3. ^ "Phil Wiggins | Biography". AllMusic. 1954-05-08. Retrieved 2015-09-07. 
  4. ^ a b c d Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. p. 100. ISBN 1-85868-255-X. 
  5. ^ Pearson, Barry Lee. "Cephas & Wiggins | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-09-07. 
  6. ^ Liner notes to Sweet Bitter Blues.
  7. ^ Liner notes to Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad.
  8. ^ Wirz, Stefan. "Illustrated L + R (Lippmann + Rau) Records (blues) discography". Wirz.de. Retrieved 2015-09-07. 
  9. ^ Seida, Linda. "Archie Edwards biography". Allmusic.com. Retrieved September 15, 2011. 
  10. ^ Sisario, Ben (March 7, 2009). "John Cephas, Guitarist with the Duo Cephas and Wiggins, Dies at 78". New York Times. Retrieved March 7, 2009. 
  11. ^ "Cephas & Wiggins | Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-09-07. 

External links[edit]