Legendary Bluesman and Pianist Pinetop Perkins Dies at 97

Pinetop Perkins - Photo by Paul Natkin, Photo Reserve Inc.
Pinetop Perkins passed away peacefully at his home on Monday, March 21, 2011 in Austin, Texas at the age of 97. “Two-time GRAMMY winner and Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Willie “Pinetop” Perkins was a legendary bluesman and master piano player,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. “A force to be reckoned with, his robust playing style and distinctive voice were unmistakable and paved the way to a rewarding career that spanned more than seven decades, and ultimately made him the oldest person to ever win a GRAMMY.

Whether performing solo or jamming with other notable talent, his charisma and energy stood out in every song. His legacy has informed and inspired so many generations, and will continue to do so for many more to come. Our deepest sympathies extend to his family, friends, fans and all who were moved by his immense talent.”

Born Willie Perkins in Belzoni, Mississippi, in July 1913, Pinetop Perkins compiled a resume that spanned nearly eighty years – as a guitarist and a pianist, then moving over to exclusively piano, following a knifing in 1942.

One of the obvious highlights was his stint with Muddy Waters band for more than a decade. From 1969 through the early ‘80s, Perkins was an integral part of Muddy’s powerhouse combo that dominated the urbanized, electrified post-World War II blues scene. It was during these years that he forged an enduring friendship and prolific creative bond with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, then the drummer in Muddy’s band.

In 2008 he released the album, “Pinetop Perkins & Friends” (Telarc), which included contributions from fellow blues legends B. B. King and Eric lapton. His last album, released in 2010, was Joined at the Hip (Telarc), a collaboration with harmonica player Willie Big Eyes Smith. The album is a mix of material written by Smith, along with a few classics from the annals of Delta and Chicago blues.


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