Leadbelly Vinyl Records Lps For Sale

Check out these new and used Leadbelly vinyl records LPs for sale. Leadbelly (or Lead Belly) was born to the world as Huddie Ledbetter in 1889 in Louisiana. (Ah, so that’s how Pearl Jam’s Yellow Ledbetter originated.) He was exposed to a large variety of music while working the fields. His life included a great amount of poverty and time in prison, after being convicted of murder in 1917 as well as attempted murder in 1930.  Leadbelly is most known for his songs Rock Island Line, Goodnight Irene, The Midnight Special and Cotton Fields. Later in life, he became a folk singer in the urban North. His music, however, did not become well-known until after his death. He was a true master of blues, folk ballads, prison songs, and spirituals. Leadbelly has also been dubbed the king of the twelve string guitar, as he took that instrument to new levels. There are many vinyl recordings of Leadbelly out there, and he was most affiliated with the Folkways label. We recommend starting your Leadbelly vinyl collection with the signature albums Negro Folk Songs and Where Did You Sleep Last Night? You might know the Nirvana Unplugged version of that last one. Our LP inventory is constantly changing, so check back often, or browse our list of vinyl from blues musicians.

Leadbelly Folkways Vinyl Lp Record

Early Life and Musical Roots (1888-1918)

Huddie William Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly, was born in Mooringsport, Louisiana, on January 20, 1888. Growing up in the rural South, Leadbelly was exposed to the rich tapestry of folk music and the blues that would shape his distinctive style. Learning to play the guitar at a young age, he soaked in the musical traditions of the region, including work songs, spirituals, and the raw, emotive sounds of the blues.

By the early 20th century, Leadbelly was already a formidable musician, renowned for his mastery of the 12-string guitar and a vocal style that blended the intensity of the blues with the storytelling of folk music. His early performances in local venues and on the streets of cities like Dallas and Shreveport laid the foundation for a career that would leave an indelible mark on American music.

Troubled Years and the Pardon (1918-1933)

Leadbelly’s life was marked by moments of triumph and tribulation. His involvement in a violent altercation led to imprisonment, where he would serve multiple sentences. However, it was during these years that he encountered folklorists John and Alan Lomax, who recognized the unique talent and authenticity in Leadbelly’s music.

In 1933, while serving time at Louisiana’s Angola Prison, Leadbelly’s fortunes took a turn when the Lomaxes successfully petitioned for his release. The pardon marked a crucial moment in his career, providing him with the opportunity to share his music with a broader audience and collaborate with those who would help shape the course of American folk and blues.

Recording Career and Legacy (1934-1949)

The 1930s saw Leadbelly’s emergence as a recording artist. His partnership with the Lomaxes resulted in numerous field recordings that captured the essence of his music. From traditional folk tunes to his own compositions, Leadbelly’s recordings showcased the depth of his repertoire.

His renditions of classics like “Goodnight, Irene” and “Midnight Special” became emblematic of his ability to reinterpret traditional songs with a unique flair. Leadbelly’s recordings, often featuring his powerful vocals and intricate guitar work, resonated with audiences and contributed to the burgeoning interest in folk and blues music during the folk revival of the 1940s.

Influence on Folk Revival and Emerging Artists

Leadbelly’s impact on the folk revival of the 1940s and 1950s was profound. Artists like Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and later, Bob Dylan, were inspired by his authenticity and the raw energy of his performances. The simplicity and emotional depth of Leadbelly’s music resonated with those seeking a connection to the roots of American folk traditions.

Pete Seeger, a prominent figure in the folk revival, not only performed Leadbelly’s songs but also sought to preserve and promote traditional folk music. The Weavers, a folk group featuring Seeger, included Leadbelly’s “Goodnight, Irene” in their repertoire, propelling the song to mainstream success. Leadbelly’s influence on the folk movement extended beyond his lifetime, shaping the sound and ethos of the era.

Radio and Concert Performances (1940s-1950s)

Leadbelly’s popularity continued to grow as he ventured into radio and concert performances. His appearances on shows like “The Midnight Special” introduced his music to a broader audience. His live performances, characterized by his commanding stage presence and compelling storytelling, solidified his status as a revered figure in American folk and blues.

During this period, Leadbelly’s influence reached beyond folk circles into the emerging world of rhythm and blues. His impact on artists like Big Bill Broonzy and Josh White highlighted the crossover appeal of his music, transcending genre boundaries and influencing a diverse array of musicians.

Collaboration with Josh White and Impact on Blues

Leadbelly’s collaboration with blues guitarist and singer Josh White in the 1940s showcased the intersection of folk and blues traditions. Their recordings together, including the seminal “Bourgeois Blues,” exemplified the fusion of Leadbelly’s folk roots with the blues sensibilities of White. This collaboration further emphasized the interconnectedness of various African American musical traditions and showcased Leadbelly’s adaptability as an artist.

The blues revival of the 1950s and 1960s, spurred in part by the interest in rediscovering and preserving traditional blues, saw Leadbelly’s influence on a new generation of blues artists. His impact can be heard in the music of artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and John Lee Hooker, who incorporated elements of Leadbelly’s raw, expressive style into their own interpretations of the blues.

Musical Adaptability and Later Years (1950s-1949)

Leadbelly’s ability to navigate and contribute to various musical genres became increasingly evident in his later years. He collaborated with artists from different backgrounds, including blues, folk, and jazz musicians. His willingness to experiment with different musical styles showcased his versatility and contributed to the evolution of American music.

His association with the burgeoning Greenwich Village folk scene in New York City during the 1940s and 1950s exposed him to a new generation of artists. The likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and the burgeoning folk movement embraced Leadbelly’s music as a link to the roots of American folk traditions. His impact on Dylan, in particular, is evident in the young troubadour’s early repertoire, which included Leadbelly’s songs.

Legacy and Posthumous Recognition

Leadbelly’s legacy endures not only in the recordings that capture the essence of his music but also in the myriad ways his influence shaped American music. His impact on the folk revival, blues, and later rock and roll is immeasurable. As a storyteller, guitarist, and singer, Leadbelly’s contributions laid the groundwork for subsequent generations of musicians to explore the vast and interconnected landscape of American roots music.

In 1949, Leadbelly’s life was cut short due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Despite his relatively brief recording career and life marked by adversity, his influence continued to grow posthumously. The enduring popularity of songs like “Goodnight, Irene” and “Midnight Special” attests to the timeless quality of his music.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Leadbelly in 1988, recognizing his pivotal role in shaping the course of American music. His impact on artists spanning genres—from folk and blues to rock and beyond—affirms Leadbelly’s enduring legacy as a foundational figure in the tapestry of American musical history.

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