Holy Blues: Blind Willie Johnson and Arizona Dranes — 1920s

by Paula Bosse

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by Paula Bosse

Today a little Sunday-go-to-meetin’ music, courtesy of two powerful singers who recorded at about the same time — late 1920s — and who both spent time in Dallas. Blind Willie Johnson was from Marlin, Texas, but he recorded much of his music in Dallas and regularly played street corners in Deep Ellum. Arizona Dranes, also a native Texan, lived in Dallas for several years and was, like Johnson, blind. Listening to both of them, you can hear their influence in the gospel and blues music that came after them. Read about the short life and career of Blind Willie Johnson here. Read about the life and career of Arizona Dranes from Michael Corcoran, here and here. And listen to their music below. It’s fantastic. (All of the tracks by Johnson were recorded in Dallas.)

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Blind Willie Johnson, 1927-ish?

That guitar!

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Here he is with his wife singing behind him.

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Johnson’s song “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” was included on the Voyager Gold Record, a collection of music chosen to represent Earth’s culture and diversity, carried into space aboard the Voyager.

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Arizona Dranes in 1953

That voice!

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The song below starts off deceptively “plinky” but picks up considerably when Arizona starts to sing.

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Want to know more about Arizona Dranes? Michael Corcoran can tell you what you need to know.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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