Willie King

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Willie King
Born(1943-03-18)March 18, 1943
Prairie Point, Mississippi, United States
DiedMarch 8, 2009(2009-03-08) (aged 65)
Old Memphis, Alabama, United States
InstrumentsGuitar, singing
LabelsRooster Blues, Freedom Creek

Willie King (March 18, 1943 – March 8, 2009) was an American blues guitarist and singer, known for shunning fame and playing at a local bar in Mississippi.[1][2]


King was born in Prairie Point, a community in Noxubee County, Mississippi near the Alabama border. Prior to recording, he worked as a sharecropper, moonshine maker and traveling salesman to name but a few of his many occupations. Later he became active with the civil rights movement,[3] which inspired him to write socially conscious blues songs. In 1983 he founded the Rural Members Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the traditional rural skills King had grown up with, which he called 'survival skills,' and helping improve his local community. In 1997, the Rural Members Association started the annual Freedom Creek blues festival, which has since received international recognition.[4] He began recording in 1999 and his 2000 recordings Freedom Creek and I Am The Blues, were the first of several acclaimed albums.

King performed at national and international festivals but mostly played near his home, most notably as a regular at Bettie's Juke joint in Mississippi. He described his music as "struggling blues" because of its focus on the "injustices in life in the rural South".[5]

King died from a heart attack shortly before his 66th birthday, near his home in the rural community of Old Memphis, Alabama, just a few miles from his birthplace.[1][6]

Willie King on film[edit]

Dutch film-makers Saskia Rietmeijer and Bart Drolenga (Visible World Films) wanted to produce a documentary about African American arts and culture in the Deep South. But they met Willie King and instead decided to devote their efforts to creating a documentary about Willie's life and times, titled Down in the Woods. King was also featured in Martin Scorsese's 2003 documentary series The Blues and Shout Factory's Blues Story the same year.



Date Title Label Comments
1999 Walkin' the Walk Talkin' the Talk self-produced With "Birmingham" George Conner
2000 I Am the Blues Rural Members Association
Freedom Creek Rooster Blues Live with the Liberators
2002 Living in a New World Rooster Blues With the Liberators
2004 Jukin' at Bettie's Freedom Creek Music
2006 One Love Freedom Creek Music


Date Title Label Formats Comments
2003 Blues Story Shout Factory DVD Directed by Jay Levey
2003 The Blues: Feel Like Going Home Universal/Sony DVD, VHS First episode of a seven-part documentary by Martin Scorsese
2007 Down in the Woods Visible World Films DVD 63-minute documentary plus 40 minutes of live music


  • Alabama Folk Heritage Award (awarded posthoumously) 2009
  • Howlin' Wolf Hall of Fame Inducted September 2, 2005
  • Alabama State Council on the Arts 2004 Artist Fellowship
  • Living Blues 2003 Blues Artist of the Year, Best Song, Best Cover Art
  • Living Blues 2001 Best Blues Artist
  • Living Blues 2000 Best Blues Album, Best Contemporary Blues Album[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mamrack, Kristin; Jan Swoope (March 9, 2009). "Legendary local bluesman Willie King dies at 66". The Commercial Dispatch. Retrieved 2009-03-15.
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ "Willie King Memorial Home Page". Willie-king.com. Retrieved 2014-07-11.
  4. ^ "Rural Members Association". Alabama Blues Project. Retrieved 2009-07-10.
  5. ^ "Willie King dies at 65". TuscaloosaNews.com. 2009-03-09. Retrieved 2014-07-11.
  6. ^ "Willie King, Bluesman, Is Dead at 65". New York Times. March 10, 2009. Retrieved March 11, 2009.
  7. ^ "Willie King Memorial Home Page". Alabamablues.org. Retrieved 2014-07-11.

External links[edit]