Two Official Biographies and a Companion Book
I am thoroughly honored to have co-written the first-ever biographies of Eugene Powell and Mississippi Matilda — a husband and wife team who performed in the Delta. These books are a cultural and musical milestone in blues history, with rare photographs and never-before-revealed backstories that make this period in time come alive.
It was the Powell family wish that the biographies reflect Eugene and Matilda’s profound faith and the beliefs upon which they relied while navigating the perils and poverty of the Deep South.
I am also nearing completion on Book Three in the Riverside Blues Series. Learn more on my Facebook page and The Riverside Blues Facebook page. Like and follow as the Delta comes alive and the blues play forever.
The Original Rolling Stone: The Travelin’ Riverside Blues of Eugene Powell
I am so pleased to announce the only biography in existence covering the story arc of bluesman Eugene Powell. I co-wrote this book with author Brian O’Connor, a subject-matter expert on the blues. This remarkable tale is the first and only ever written. “Sonny Boy Nelson” is the featured the Riverside Blues Series with never-before-published insights from the man himself, interviews with family members who knew him best, and first-hand accounts from his friends and fans.
Eugene was a musical child prodigy and played the guitar at paid gigs at the age of seven. Blinded in one eye at age eight, he used his other senses to compensate, and went on to perform for prisoners at the Parchman Prison, and later with the Chatmon Brothers of Mississippi Sheiks fame. In 1936 he was recorded by Bluebird Records in a famous session at the St. Charles Hotel with his wife Matilda Matilda, Richard Hill, Sam and Bo Chatmon, Ernest 44 Johnson, and other notable musicians. He spent his later years sharing “plantation wisdom” from his porch as a man of faith.
Never before or since has such biography been written. Eugene deserves recognition and due credit as a blues forefather who impacted American music as we know it today. Published by Sonny Southern Productions.
The Life and Legend of Mississippi Matilda: Iconic Blues Songstress of the Delta
I am completely, thoroughly and utterly honored to be the only person in existence to co-write Mississippi Matilda’s biography. No one else has had access to her true-life story. Brian O’Connor and I collaborated with her family to provide firsthand accounts and a bird’s-eye view of Matilda’s life in the fields and on stage — but more importantly, in her home surrounded by her ten children. This is a culturally, historically and musically remarkable first-ever biography made possible by the contributions of her daughter Carrie Powell, who shared insights into her mother’s difficult and transcendent journey.
The Deep South resonates in the story — the cotton fields in which Matilda labored and the juke joints and minstrel shows in which she sang, namely the Florida Orange Blossom Minstrels. She performed as a vocalist and was recorded with her husband Eugene Powell under the Bluebird label.
The biography delves into Matilda’s complex journey as an abused child and her lifelong fondness for gospel music. She is best known for legacy of love she left in the hearts of her children.
Book Three — COMING SOON!
America’s Unbeatable Musicians: The Original Masters of the Mississippi Riverside Blues is the third book in the Riverside Blues Series, slated for publication in the fall of 2019. The book details close ties, friendships and collaborations between Eugene Powell, Mississippi Matilda and some of the most important talent in the Delta.
The most enjoyable part of writing this companion book is following the thread of friendships through the tapestry of the Delta. Eugene Powell and Mississippi Matilda were known everywhere and knew everybody. They were the quintessential Deep South performers and great friends with Bo Carter Chatmon, Sam Chatmon, Hacksaw Harney, Ernest 44 Johnson, Robert Nighthawk, Richard Hill, Little Brother Montgomery, and many, many other blues musicians throughout Mississippi and beyond. Blues artists converged in those early days at the Blue Front in Hollandale, Mississippi — an incubator for blues talent and a hot spot for string bands, washboard bands, jug bands and many playing partnerships. Some recorded for various labels, and some migrated north to Chicago, another blues hot spot that segued from acoustic blues to the electric guitar.