Little Brother Montgomery

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Little Brother Montgomery
Blues is a woman Reitz (Little Brother Montgomery).jpg
Background information
Birth nameEurreal Wilford Montgomery
Born(1906-04-18)April 18, 1906
Kentwood, Louisiana, United States
DiedSeptember 6, 1985(1985-09-06) (aged 79)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
  • Pianist
  • vocalist
  • Vocals
  • piano
LabelsEarwig Music

Eurreal Wilford "Little Brother" Montgomery (April 18, 1906 – September 6, 1985)[2][3] was an American jazz, boogie-woogie and blues pianist and singer.[1]

Largely self-taught, Montgomery was an important blues pianist with an original style. He was also versatile, working in jazz bands, including larger ensembles that used written arrangements. He did not read music but learned band routines by ear.[4]


Montgomery was born in Kentwood, Louisiana, United States,[5] a sawmill town near the Mississippi border, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, where he spent much of his childhood. Both his parents were of African-American and Creek Indian ancestry.[2] As a child he looked like his father, Harper Montgomery, and was called Little Brother Harper. The name evolved into Little Brother Montgomery, and the nickname stuck. He started playing piano at the age of four, and by age 11 he left home for four years and played at barrelhouses in Louisiana.[6][7] His main musical influence was Jelly Roll Morton, who used to visit the Montgomery household.[6]

Early in his career he performed at African-American lumber and turpentine camps in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi.[7] He then played with the bands of Clarence Desdunes and Buddy Petit. He lived in Chicago from 1928 to 1931, regularly playing at rent parties,[8] and Chicago was where he made his first recordings. From 1931 through 1938, he led a jazz ensemble, the Southland Troubadours, in Jackson, Mississippi.[4]

In 1941, Montgomery moved back to Chicago,[4] which would be his home for the rest of his life, and went on tours to other cities in the United States and Europe.[3] He toured briefly with Otis Rush in 1956.[9] In the late 1950s he was discovered by a wider white audience. His fame grew in the 1960s, and he continued to make many recordings, some of them on his own record label, FM Records, which he formed in 1969[3] (FM stood for Floberg Montgomery, Floberg being the maiden name of his wife).[4]

Montgomery toured Europe several times in the 1960s and recorded some of his albums there.[10] He appeared at many blues and folk festivals during the following decade and was considered a living legend, a link to the early days of blues in New Orleans.[9]

Among his original compositions are "Shreveport Farewell", "Farrish Street Jive", and "Vicksburg Blues".[4] His instrumental "Crescent City Blues" served as the basis for a song of the same name by Gordon Jenkins, which in turn was adapted by Johnny Cash as "Folsom Prison Blues."[11]

Montomery's grave at Oak Woods Cemetery

In 1968, Montgomery contributed to two albums by Spanky and Our Gang, Like to Get to Know You[12] and Anything You Choose b/w Without Rhyme or Reason.[13]

Montgomery died on September 6, 1985, in Champaign, Illinois,[2] and was interred in the Oak Woods Cemetery.

In 2013, Montgomery was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.[14]

The R&B musician and producer Paul Gayten was Montgomery's nephew.[15]

Further information[edit]

  • Deep South Piano. The Story of Little Brother Montgomery, by Karl Gert zur Heide (London: Studio Vista, 1970, ISBN 0289700280), provides an overview of his life and early career.
  • The October 1985 issue of The Mississippi Rag contains an article on Montgomery by Paige Van Vorst. The article was revised and updated and included in the liner notes of the 1990 album At Home (posthumously issued as Earwig 4918).[16] These articles provide an overview of his life and musical career.
  • The two-LP set Crescent City Blues (AXM2-5522), released by RCA in 1975, which includes many of his recordings for Bluebird Records in the mid-1930s, has comprehensive liner notes by Jim O'Neal, the editor of Living Blues magazine, giving an overview of Montgomery's music career.[17]
  • Conversation with the Blues, by Paul Oliver,[18] first published in 1965 and reissued by Cambridge University Press in 1997, includes interviews with Montgomery.


Year of Release Album Title Label
1960 Tasty Blues Bluesville
1961 Blues Folkways
1965 Music Down Home: An Introduction to Negro Folk Music: U.S.A. Folkways
1966 Piano Blues Folkways
1968 Farro Street Live Folkways
1968 No Special Rider Here Genes/Adelphi
1972 Blues Piano Orgy Delmark
1975 Church Songs: Sung and Played on the Piano by Little Brother Montgomery Folkways
2003 Classic Blues from Smithsonian Folkways Smithsonian Folkways
2003 Classic Blues from Smithsonian Folkways, Vol. 2 Smithsonian Folkways
2008 Classic Piano Blues from Smithsonian Folkways Smithsonian Folkways
2008 Classic African American Gospel from Smithsonian Folkways Smithsonian Folkways


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.
  2. ^ a b c Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues: A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger. pp. 106–107. ISBN 978-0313344237.
  3. ^ a b c Dahl, Bill. "Little Brother Montgomery: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1995). The Guinness Who's Who of Blues (Second ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 269/270. ISBN 0-85112-673-1.
  5. ^ Robert Palmer (1981). Deep Blues. Penguin Books. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-14-006223-6.
  6. ^ a b Giles Oakley (1997). The Devil's Music. Da Capo Press. p. 69/71. ISBN 978-0-306-80743-5.
  7. ^ a b Robert Palmer (1981). Deep Blues. Penguin Books. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-14-006223-6.
  8. ^ Giles Oakley (1997). The Devil's Music. Da Capo Press. p. 148. ISBN 978-0-306-80743-5.
  9. ^ a b [1][dead link]
  10. ^ Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. p. 146. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
  11. ^ Silverman, Jonathan (2010). Nine Choices: Johnny Cash and American Culture. University of Massachusetts Press. p. 92. Retrieved October 4, 2012. crescent city blues gordon jenkins.
  12. ^ "Like to Get to Know You - Spanky & Our Gang | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  13. ^ "Without Rhyme or Reason (Anything You Choose) - Spanky & Our Gang | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  14. ^ "2013 Blues Hall of Fame Inductees Announced". Archived from the original on October 26, 2010. Retrieved March 6, 2013.
  15. ^ O'Neal, Jim. "Paul Gayten". Retrieved March 11, 2013.
  16. ^ a b "Illustrated Little Brother Montgomery discography". Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  17. ^ "Illustrated Little Brother Montgomery discography : Reproduction of Crescent City Blues liner notes" (JPG). Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  18. ^ Oliver, Paul (1965). Conversation with the Blues. London: Cassell. ISBN 3-85445-065-6.

External links[edit]