Blind Lemon Jefferson Mural

400 N. 8th St.

Hard not to notice, Blind Lemon Jefferson takes part in a huge mural on the side of the Firehouse BBQ and Blues. So who was Blind Lemon Jefferson and what’s he doing on a Richmond wall?

Before Blues greats Big Bill Broonzy or Robert Johnson, there was a visually impaired country-blues guitarist whose enormous talent influenced all who followed. He was born on a farm near Worthan, Texas. Blind Lemon was the best-selling country-blues musician of the 1920’s. He recorded a total of ninety songs. His intensely personal style and a powerful singing voice were something new. It was the music from the street corners and the rural South. In 1925 he came to Chicago to record for Paramount. His greatest hit was “That Black Snake Moan,” released in 1927. Other songs include “Match Box Blues,” “Jack O’Diamonds,” and “See That My Grave is Kept Clean.” He made enough money not only to buy a Ford automobile, but also to hire a chauffeur.

On September 24, 1929, Blind Lemon Jefferson took the train from Chicago to the Penn Station in Richmond, Indiana, to record at the Gennett studio. This now famous country-bluesman cut twelve songs that day. As it turned out, these were his final recordings. It is not entirely clear what happened after he left a house party in Chicago, but it was late at night in December during a snowstorm and it is believed he became disoriented and lost. The next morning, Blind Lemon Jefferson was found, guitar in hand, frozen to death on a Chicago sidewalk. Among those he influenced included Doc Watson, Carl Perkins, and Van Morrison. The rock bands Blind Melon and Jefferson Airplane were named in his honor.

Thank you to the Starr-Gennett Foundation for providing this information!