HEY LOCO FANS – Happy Birthday to blues guitarist “Scrapper” Blackwell born on this day in 1903. He was given the nickname “Scrapper” by his grandmother, because of his fiery nature.
He’s best known as half of the guitar-piano duo he formed with Leroy Carr in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Born Francis Hillman Blackwell, he was one of sixteen children and and spent most of his life in Indianapolis. Scrapper Blackwell was a self-taught guitarist, building his first guitar out of a cigar box, wood and wire.
He recorded with Leroy Carr and the result was “How Long, How Long Blues”, the biggest blues hit of 1928.
Scrapper Blackwell also made solo recordings including “Kokomo Blues”, which became “Old Kokomo Blues” by Kokomo Arnold and later “Sweet Home Chicago” by Robert Johnson. Blackwell and Carr toured throughout the American Midwest and South between 1928 and 1935 as stars of the blues circuit, recording over 100 sides.
Scrapper Blackwell’s last recording session with Carr was in February 1935, ending bitterly with both musicians left the studio mid-session and on bad terms, stemming from payment disputes. Two months later Blackwell received a phone call informing him of Carr’s death due to heavy drinking and nephritis. Blackwell soon recorded a tribute to his musical partner of seven years (“My Old Pal Blues”). A short time later Blackwell retired from the music industry.
Scrapper Blackwell returned to music and was then recorded in 1961, in Indianapolis, by the young Art Rosenbaum for the Prestige/Bluesville Records. Blackwell was ready to resume his blues career, when he was shot and killed in a mugging in an Indianapolis alley, in October 1962 at the age of 59. The police arrested his neighbor at the time for the murder, but the crime remains unsolved.
His father played the fiddle, but Scrapper Blackwell was a self-taught guitarist, building his first guitar out of a cigar box, wood and wire. He also learned to play the piano, occasionally performing professionally. By his teens, Blackwell was a part-time musician, traveling as far as Chicago.