John Dee Holeman

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John Dee Holman (Holeman)
Born (1929-04-04) April 4, 1929 (age 86)
Hillsborough, North Carolina, United States
Genres Piedmont blues,[1]
Occupation(s) Guitarist, singer, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Years active 1950s–present
Labels Music Maker, Inedit Music

John Dee Holman often misspelled "Holeman," (born April 4, 1929)[2] is an American Piedmont blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter.[1] His music includes elements of Texas blues, R&B and African American String Band music.[1] In his younger days he was also known for his proficiency as a 'buckdancer'.[3]


Holman was born in Hillsborough, North Carolina, United States,[2] but since 1954 he has been based in Durham, North Carolina.[1] Inspired by Blind Boy Fuller, Holeman was both singing and playing his guitar at local parties and other events by his mid-teens. By his mid-twenties Holeman had bought his first electric guitar and relocated to Durham, where he played with the pianist, Fris Holloway.[1][4] The duo became adept at the Juba dance, also known as the hambone or buckdance.

"As a young man, Holman also listened to traveling bluesmen from other areas of the South, to recordings from Chicago and the Delta, and to black and white musicians on the radio. While still a teenager, he started playing music at house parties, Saturday night suppers, and community gatherings throughout his area of rural North Carolina. At country dances, Holman also learned the tradition of "patting juba." Juba, the use of complex hand rhythms to provide timing for dancers, is a centuries-old tradition among Africans and African Americans. Where Holman grew up, it was customary when party musicians took a break for males to engage in competitive solo dancing accompanied only by hand or "patting" rhythms. "Juba" refers to both the complex hand rhythms and the dance traditionally done to them. The dance done to the juba rhythm is also called "buckdance," "bust down," and "jigging." "Patting" is distinguished from clapping by virtue of the varied pitches the patting hand elicits from the arms, chest, thighs, and flanks." [3]

During his working lifetime, Holman had full-time employment as a construction worker, and music was a part-time pursuit.[3] However, Holman toured both in the United States and overseas in the 1980s, which included performances at New York's Carnegie Hall, and abroad on behalf of the United States Information Agency's 'Arts America' program.[1] In 1980, Holeman played at the 42nd National Folk Festival at Wolf Trap, Virginia.[5] He has performed yearly at the Black Banjo Festival in Boone North Carolina. His first album "Bull City After Dark" was nominated for a W.C. Handy award, the Blues equivalent of a Grammy, later renamed "Blues Music Awards." He recorded his album, Bull Durham Blues in 1988, which featured Taj Mahal. It was re-released on the Music Maker label in 1999. Also in 1988, the National Endowment for the Arts presented Holman with a National Heritage Fellowship.[1]

In 1994, Holman was presented with the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award.[2] A song he co-wrote with Kenny Wayne Shepherd, "Chapel Hill Boogie", was featured on the 2007 Grammy Award nominated album, 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads.[6]

In 2007, Music Maker also issued the John Dee Holeman & the Waifs Band album, where Holeman was backed by the Australian folk rock group, The Waifs.[1]


Year Title Record label
1999 Bull Durham Blues Music Maker
1999 Piedmont Blues of Carolina Inedit Music
2007 John Dee Holeman & the Waifs Band Music Maker


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Richard Skelly. "John Dee Holman". Allmusic. Retrieved October 22, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c "John Dee Holman". Retrieved October 22, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c "1988 NEA National Heritage Fellow; John Dee Holman". Retrieved October 22, 2011. 
  4. ^ "John Dee Holeman". Retrieved October 22, 2011. 
  5. ^ Bastin, Bruce (1995). Red River blues: the blues tradition in the Southeast (1st ed.). Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. p. 289. ISBN 0-252-01213-5. 
  6. ^ "50th annual Grammy Awards nominations (part II)". December 6, 2007. Retrieved October 22, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Allmusic ((( John Dee Holeman > Discography > Main Albums )))".