David "Honeyboy" Edwards was blues royalty. He traveled every blues highway many, many times, and played with virtually every major blues musician of the 20th and 21st Century. He was the real thing, and now he has died at age 95.
It’s hard to underestimate Edwards' authenticity in the blues. He is believed to have been the oldest surviving member of the first generation of Delta blues singers. He was born in 1915 in Shaw, Mississippi, and at 14-years-old he began performing with Big Joe Williams. He was on the road until last April, when his health declined. Just shy of his 96th birthday, he played his last gigs at the Juke Joint Festival and Cathead Mini-Festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi on April 16 and 17.
Edwards played with them all, including Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Big Joe Williams, Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin' Wolf, Sunnyland Slim, Lightnin' Hopkins, Big Walter, Little Walter, Magic Sam and Muddy Waters.
He was the last living link to Robert Johnson, widely considered the King of the Delta Blues. Johnson and Edwards traveled together, performing on street corners and at picnics, dances and fish fries during the 1930s.
“We would walk through the country with our guitars on our shoulders, stop at people’s houses, play a little music, walk on,” Edwards said in an interview with the blues historian Robert Palmer, recalling his years with Johnson. “We could hitchhike, transfer from truck to truck, or, if we couldn’t catch one of them, we’d go to the train yard, ’cause the railroad was all through that part of the country then.” He added, “Man, we played for a lot of peoples.”
In 1942, Alan Lomax recorded Edwards in Clarksdale, Mississippi for the Library of Congress. He recorded a total of fifteen sides of Edward's music.
Edward’s career included several hit songs, such as "Long Tall Woman Blues," "Gamblin Man" and "Just Like Jesse James." He won two Grammy awards, in 2008 for best traditional blues album, and a 2010 lifetime achievement award. Edwards' biography is titled "The World Don't Owe Me Nothing.”
Until the end, Edwards traveled from juke joint to nightclub to festival, playing real Delta blues. He was a friendly man who always met his fans after a show. Here he is shown at B.B. Kings in New York City on Sept. 29, 2005.