Mack asks me questions like that, just to get me going. I never, of course, ask him any questions just to watch him go off.
But this is actually an interesting question, one easily addressed, thanks to John Work III, in a book I happen to have right in front of me–Lost Delta Found. (And may I just point out that the Holiday sale price of that book is incredibly, generously, low, and must have been decided by a person of such great character and kindness that I took her out to lunch today to Qdoba, where she had a pork burrito and mourned the fact that they were all out of chocolate brownies?)–we can answer that question.
Morganfield’s influences, by his own admission, were Son House–“His musical career began with a harmonica, but after listening to “Son” House play the guitar, there developed within him an ambition he could not restrain to play that instrument.” (p. 118). (That’s Work’s phrasing and it’s so delicious. I about want to run out and develop within me an ambition I cannot restrain.)–and Robert Johnson. The first song he learned on the guitar was “How Long Blues” and he was “in great demand among the plantation folk, both Negro and white.” (p. 119). The white dancers wanted to hear old reels, though they did enjoy it when he performed the “St. Louis Blues.” Work reports, “Muddy water would like to join the church but to do so would mean abandoning his guitar–a sacrifice too dear to make now.”