Sylvester Weaver (musician)

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Sylvester Weaver
Weaver with Sara Martin
Background information
Born(1897-07-25)July 25, 1897
Louisville, Kentucky, United States
DiedApril 4, 1960(1960-04-04) (aged 62)
Louisville, Kentucky, United States
GenresBlues, country blues
InstrumentsSlide guitar, guitjo
Associated actsSara Martin, Walter Beasley, Helen Humes

Sylvester Weaver (July 25, 1896 or 1897 – April 4, 1960)[1] was an American blues guitar player and a pioneer of country blues.[2] Birth and death dates come from 1900 federal census, Louisville, KY, ward 2, district 0020, sheet 4, line 40 and Weaver's death certificate respectively. The census record has the 1896 and the death certificate has the 1897 birth date.


Weaver recorded "Longing for Daddy Blues" and "I've Got to Go and Leave My Daddy Behind" with the blues singer Sara Martin on October 23, 1923, in New York City. Two weeks later, as a soloist, he recorded "Guitar Blues" and "Guitar Rag", the first blues guitar instrumentals.[3] Both recordings were released by Okeh Records. They are the first recorded country blues,[4] and the first known recordings of a slide guitar. "Guitar Rag" (played on a Guitjo) became a blues classic. A cover version recorded by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys in the 1930s as "Steel Guitar Rag" became a country music standard.

Louisville city directories published between 1916 and 1930 indicate that Weaver, like his parents, lived most of his life in the Smoketown neighborhood and that he supported his music career with employment in various blue-collar jobs. These directories list his occupation as porter (1916–1920), packer (1925), apartment janitor (1928), and chauffeur (1930). The 1938 directory suggests financial hardship during the Great Depression; it indicates that Weaver was living with his parents. By 1949, he and his wife, Dorothy, had moved to a better neighborhood, near Cherokee Park, where they lived in a basement apartment, probably a modest accommodation. His move from Smoketown is roughly contemporaneous with the construction of the Sheppard Square housing project, so he and his parents may have been displaced when the project absorbed his Roselane Court and their Clay Street residences.

Weaver recorded about 50 more songs, sometimes accompanied by Sara Martin, until 1927. On some recordings from 1927 he was accompanied by Walter Beasley and the singer Helen Humes. Weaver often played his guitar bottleneck style, using a knife as a slide. His recordings were successful, but in 1927 he retired and went back to Louisville, where he lived until his death, on April 4, 1960, from carcinoma of the tongue (death certificate). A revival of interest in the recordings of many country blues artists occurred from the 1950s on, but Weaver died almost forgotten.

A complete collection of his recordings was released on two CDs in 1992. In the same year his hitherto unmarked grave received a headstone by engagement of the Kentuckiana Blues Society, based in Louisville. Since 1989 the society has presented its Sylvester Weaver Award annually to honor those who have rendered outstanding services to blues music.

Compilation albums[edit]

  • Complete Recorded Works Vol. 1 (1923–1927), 1992, Document Records
  • Complete Recorded Works Vol. 2 (1927), 1992, Document Records


  1. ^ Doc Rock. "The 1960s". Retrieved 2015-08-30.
  2. ^ Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music. Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.
  3. ^ Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. p. 12. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
  4. ^ Robert Palmer. Deep Blues. Penguin Books. p. 106. ISBN 978-0-14-006223-6.

External links[edit]

The content of this article comes from the equivalent German-language Wikipedia article (retrieved August 10, 2006).