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Music blues singer, songwriter and guitarist R. L. Burnside picture(s)/pic(s), wallpaper and photo gallery.
Birth name: Robert Lee Burnside.
Born: November 23, 1926 Oxford, Mississippi, USA.
Died: September 1, 2005 (aged 78) Memphis, Tennessee, USA.
R. L. Burnside biography (bio):
R. L. Burnside (born Robert Lee Burnside, Harmontown, Lafayette County, Mississippi, November 21 or November 23, 1926; d. Memphis, Tennessee, September 1, 2005) was a blues singer, songwriter and guitarist who lived much of his life in and around Holly Springs, Mississippi.
He played music for much of his life, but did not receive much attention until the early 1990s.
Burnside spent most of his life in the rural hill country of northern Mississippi, working as a sharecropper and a commercial fisherman, as well as playing guitar at weekend house parties. He was first inspired to pick up the guitar in his early twenties, after hearing the 1948 John Lee Hooker single "Boogie Chillen" (which inspired numerous other rural bluesmen, among them Buddy Guy, to start playing). He learned music largely from Mississippi Fred McDowell, who lived nearby in an adjoining county. He also cited his cousin-in-law, Muddy Waters, as an influence.
During the 1950s Burnside grew tired of sharecropping and moved to Chicago, Illinois in the hopes of finding better economic opportunities. But things did not turn out as he had hoped. Within the span of one month his father, brother, and uncle were all murdered in the city, a tragedy that Burnside would later draw upon in his work, particularly in his interpretation of Skip James's "Hard Time Killing Floor" and the talking blues "R.L.'s Story," the opening and closing tracks on Burnside's 2000 album Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down.
In around 1959 he left Chicago and went back to Mississippi to work the farms and raise a family. Burnside claimed to have been convicted for murder and sentenced to six months' incarceration for the crime. Burnside's boss at the time reputedly pulled strings to keep the murder sentence short, due to having need of Burnside's skills as a tractor driver. "I didn't mean to kill nobody," Burnside later said. "I just meant to shoot the sonofabitch in the head. Him dying was between him and the Lord."
His earliest recordings were made in the late 1960s by George Mitchell (musician) and released on Arhoolie Records. Another album of acoustic material was recorded that year and little else was released before "Hill Country Blues," in the early 1980s. An album's worth of singles followed, released on ethnomusicology professor Dr. David Evans' Highwater Records label in Memphis, Tennessee.
In the 1990s, he began recording for the Oxford, Mississippi, label Fat Possum Records. Founded by Living Blues magazine editor Peter Redvers-Lee and Matthew Johnson, the label was dedicated to recording aging North Mississippi bluesmen such as Burnside and his friend Junior Kimbrough. Burnside remained with Fat Possum from that time until his death, and usually performed with his friend and understudy, the white slide guitar player Kenny Brown, with whom he began playing in 1971 and claimed as his "adopted son."
In the mid-1990s, Burnside attracted the attention of Jon Spencer, the leader of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, touring and recording with this group and gaining a new audience in the process.
Since the death of Kimbrough and the burning of Kimbrough's juke joint in Chulahoma, Mississippi, Burnside quit recording studio material for Fat Possum, though he did continue to tour. After a heart attack in 2001, Burnside's doctor advised him to stop drinking; Burnside did, but he reported that change left him unable to play.
Members of his large extended family continue to play blues in the Holly Springs area: grandson Cedric Burnside tours with Kenny Brown, while his son Duwayne Burnside has played guitar with the North Mississippi Allstars (Polaris; Hill Country Revue with R. L. Burnside). Duwayne's solo career began when "Duwayne Burnside and the Mississippi Mafia" recorded "Live At the Mint" in October 1997. Members included Cedric Burnside, Eddie Batos, Joe Hill from Alien Ant Farm, and David Kimbrough, Jr. (Junior Kimbrough's son) with Duwayne's father R. L. sitting in on a few tracks. Duwayne and the Mississippi Mafia released "Under Pressure" in March of 2005, which was recorded at Delta Studios in Clarksdale, Mississippi featuring James Mathus, rhythm guitar (Squirrel Nut Zippers), Roy Cunningham on drums (Stax Sessions), and R. L.'s son Garry Burnside on bass guitar. In 2004, the Burnside sons opened Burnside Blues Cafe, located 30 miles southeast of Memphis at the intersection of U.S. Highway 78 and Mississippi Highway 7 in Holly Springs, Mississippi.
Burnside had been in declining health since heart surgery in 1999, and died in a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee on September 1, 2005 at the age of 78. He is survived by his wife Alice Mae, twelve children (including musicians Duwayne and Garry), and numerous grandchildren.
In January of 2006, Garry and Cedric released "The Record" under the moniker "Burnside Exploration" continuing the musical legacy of R. L.
Burnside had a powerful, expressive voice and played both electric and acoustic guitars (both with a slide and without). His drone-based style was a characteristic of North Mississippi hill country blues rather than Mississippi Delta blues. Like other country blues musicians, he did not always adhere to 12- or 16-bar blues patterns, often adding extra beats according to his preference. He called this "Burnside style" and often commented that his backing musicians needed to be familiar with his style in order to be able to play along with him.
His earliest recordings, like those of John Lee Hooker, sound very similar in their vocal and instrumental style to the music of West Africa, specifically Mali. Many of his songs do not have chord changes, but use the same chord or repeating bass line throughout, giving his music a hypnotic feel. His vocal style is characterized by a tendency to "break" into falsetto briefly (usually at the ends of long notes).
He also knew many toasts (African American narrative folk poems such as "The Signifying Monkey" and "Tojo Told Hitler") and frequently recited them between songs at his live concerts and on his recordings.
* An R. L. Burnside poster can be seen on a wall in brothers Drake and Josh's room in the Nickelodeon sitcom Drake & Josh.
* The 2007 Samuel L. Jackson/Christina Ricci film Black Snake Moan is fused with countless R.L. Burnside nods, including: the Reverend R. L. character and when Jackson plays the blues toward the end of the film, he thanks "Ced" and "Kenny"--Cedric Burnside (R. L.'s grandson) and Kenny Brown (R.L.'s "adopted son"), who were R. L.'s primary sidemen through the 1990s and early 2000s. Cedric and Kenny are also part of Jackson's band in the juke joint scene. Also, it may just be coincidence, but the initials of the two main characters are "R" (Rae) and "L" (Lazarus)