Hacksaw Harney and America’s Unbeatable Musicians

Hacksaw Harney

Hacksaw Harney (L) and Eugene Powell (R). Photo credit: Diana Davies (with permission by the Smithsonian). All rights reserved.

Hacksaw Harney, Eugene Powell, and America’s Unbeatable Musicians

Can a finger picker make his guitar sound like a piano? In the case of Eugene, the answer is yes.

“‘Is that a piano?’ peoples say. ‘No, that a guitar,’ I say,” recalled Eugene.

I have enjoyed writing the two blues biographies on Eugene Powell and Mississippi Matilda, and am now immersed in the writing of Book Three in the Riverside Blues Series. The stories about Hacksaw Harney and Eugene are wonderful.

Ol’ Hacksaw Harney and Eugene were the best of friends, according to Hacksaw’s daughter Rose Mary.

From the yet unpublished third installment in the Riverside Blues series:

“My father told me that nobody could outplay them. They were like one in the same kind of person.”

~ Rose Mary Harney, daughter of Hacksaw Harney, referring to her father’s friendship with Eugene in America’s Unbeatable Musicians: The Original Masters of the Mississippi Riverside Blues. Book Three.

The really were America’s unbeatable musicians, along with Ernest 44 Johnson, Little Brother Montgomery, Richard Hill, Robert Nighthawk, The Chatmon Brothers, and more. These remarkable bluesmen are featured in Book Three of the Riverside Blues Series—COMING SOON!

The best played with the best in those days, and in this case they played the forty-fours. Eugene Powell and Hacksaw Harney were no exception.

The Forty-Fours, Also Known As The 44’s

Both Hacksaw and Eugene were masters of 44’s. Eugene dominated the royal riverside guitar and 44 piano roll, and adapted the rich tones of this deep south barrelhouse piano into his guitar. It produced remarkable sounds that closely resembled piano music. He had the ability to play in many styles.

According to Living Blues Magazine:

“Most of his songs featured a rolling ball line (similar to the one created by the left hand on a piano) and always mimicked the lyrics of the song.”

Contact melaniesaxton@icloud.com to learn more about Eugene, Hacksaw, Mississippi Matilda, and the other notable blues artists of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.