HEY LOCO FANS – Mississippi Sheiks member Walter Vinson was born on this day in 1901. This blues guitarist worked with Bo Chatmon and his brothers, and co-wrote the blues standard “Sitting on Top of the World”.
Vinson was born in Bolton, Mississippi, and grew up performing music locally. He rarely performed on his own but was regularly part of a duet, trio or group.
He worked with Son Spand, Rubin Lacey and Charlie McCoy in the early to mid-1920s. In 1928 he teamed with Lonnie Chatmon to form the Mississippi Sheiks. The Sheiks and related groups, such as the Mississippi Mud Steppers, the Mississippi Hot Footers and Blacksnakes, recorded about a hundred sides in the first half of the 1930s, among them original compositions (probably by Vinson) such as “The World Is Going Wrong” and “I’ve Got Blood in My Eyes for You” or the topical “Sales Tax” (1934). Vinson claimed to have composed “Sitting on Top of the World” one morning, after playing at a white dance in Greenwood, Mississippi.
After the Sheiks split up in 1933, Vinson moved around the United States, recording with various musicians. He moved from Jackson, Mississippi, to New Orleans and ultimately to Chicago. By the mid-1940s his appearances in blues clubs had dwindled. After a lengthy break from music, he reappeared as a performer in 1960. He played at music festivals and recorded further tracks over the next decade, before the onset of hardening of the arteries curtailed his public appearances. Vinson died in Chicago in 1975 at the age of 74.
In 2004, the Mississippi Sheiks were inducted in the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame. “Sitting on Top of the World” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.
In 2009, a concert produced by Steve Salter, of the nonprofit organization Killer Blues, raised money to place a headstone on Vinson’s unmarked grave, and a stone was placed in October 2009.