Peg Leg Sam

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Peg Leg Sam (December 18, 1911 – October 27, 1977)[1][2] was an American country blues harmonicist, singer and comedian.[3] He recorded "Fox Chase" and "John Henry" and worked in medicine shows.[1] He gained his nickname following an accident whilst hoboing in 1930.[2]


Born Arthur Jackson in Jonesville, South Carolina, he was the fourth of six children of David Jackson, a farmer and native of Virginia, and Emma Jackson. His paternal great-grandmother, Racheal Williams, was born 1810 in colonial Virginia and was commonly referred to as a mulatto. She may have had a caucasian mother or father (more likely a caucasian father, as would have been more typical of the period).

Peg Leg Sam taught himself to play harmonica as a small child. He left home at the age of 12 and never stopped roving. He shined shoes, worked as a houseboy, cooked on ships, hoboed, and then made a living busking on street corners. He lost his leg trying to hop a train but made a peg out of a fencepost, bound it to his stub with a leather belt and kept moving.[4]

His ability to play two harmonicas at once (while one went in and out of his mouth) made him an attraction, and he went on to perform in patent-medicine shows. He could also play notes on a harmonica with his nose.[4] Peg Leg Sam married Theo S. Jackson, who was 18 years his senior and the mother of Herbert Miller and Katherine Miller, both natives of Tennessee. Peg Leg Sam gave his last medicine-show performance in 1972 in North Carolina but continued to appear at music festivals in his final years.[2]

He died in Jonesville in October 1977, at the age of 65.[1][2]


A biography of Peg Leg Sam, Born for Hard Luck, was released by Tom Davenport in 1976. An excerpt from the documentary appears in the French film Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain.


  • Medicine Show Man
  • Early in the Morning (featuring Louisiana Red)
  • Joshua (featuring Louisiana Red)
  • Kickin' It

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "The Dead Rock Stars Club, The 1970s". Archived from the original on June 27, 2015. Retrieved July 17, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d O'Neal, Jim. "Peg Leg Sam Biography". Retrieved July 17, 2015. 
  3. ^ Du Noyer, Paull (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music. Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5. 
  4. ^ a b Cooper, Kent. Liner notes to Early in the Morning.

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