Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman remembers a blues legend who also made some of the first known recordings of zydeco music.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Friday on KXT and Saturday on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KERA radio’s 90.1 at Night.
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Sam “Lightnin’” Hopkins was born in Centerville, Texas, on March 15, 1912. As a child, Hopkins built a homemade guitar from a cigar box. Eventually, he would perform alongside such blues greats as Blind Lemon Jefferson. Lightnin’ Hopkins recorded for at least 20 different labels and had five major hits on the R&B charts during the 1940s and 1950s. He was a versatile musician who often blended blues, R&B and other styles. His 1947 song “Zolo Go,” made for the Houston-based Gold Star label, is one of the first known recordings of zydeco music. During the 1960s, Lightnin’ Hopkins toured throughout North America and Europe and helped inspire a whole new generation of musicians, including John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll celebrate a musician who was nicknamed for his lively stage performances.