Lightnin 'Hopkins

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Sam Hopkins , known under the stage name Lightnin 'Hopkins (born March 15, 1912 in Centerville , Texas , † January 30, 1982 in Houston , Texas) was an American blues singer and guitarist . He is considered an influential exponent of the Texas Blues .

Lightnin 'Hopkins


Hopkins came from a musical family: two older brothers, Joel and John Henry, were also blues guitarists who released an LP on Arhoolie Records in the mid-1960s . Hopkins learned the blues in Buffalo , Texas from Blind Lemon Jefferson and country blues singer Alger 'Texas' Alexander , allegedly his cousin, with whom he was discovered by Lola Anne Cullum of Aladdin Records in Los Angeles . He got his nickname "Lightnin '" when he made recordings in 1946 with the pianist Thunder Smith . He had smaller hits in the R&B charts with “Tim Moore's Farm” and “T-Model Blues”. Hopkins recorded for many record labels ( Modern , Ace and others), in the 1960s mainly LPs for Arhoolie and Prestige - mostly with drums and bass. Sonny Terry involved him in his 1963 production Sonny Is King . In 1964 Hopkins took part in the American Folk Blues Festival , a tour of Europe.

In the mid-1960s, Hopkins played at the Newport Folk Festival with drummer Sam Lay . Some of these recordings appeared on Vanguard Records . At the end of the 1960s, the documentary filmmaker Les Blank made the film The Blues According To Lightning Hopkins with Mance Lipscomb and the blues harp player Billy Bizor (1913–1969), who was a cousin of Hopkins and has been featured on several "Prestige Records" Accompanied studio sessions in the early 1960s. Two years later, in 1970, a British film was made with Hopkins: Blues Like Showers . A car accident in the 1970s affected his health, but he continued to tour America and Europe. In 1976 he played at the New Orleans Blues & Jazz Festival - this appearance appeared in part on a double album.

In the 1980s Hopkins fell ill with lung and larynx cancer, so that he had to cancel his appearance at the Munich Blues and Jazz Festival in 1981 and his cousin Albert Collins stepped in for him instead .


Hopkins played primarily an acoustic guitar (often from Gibson ), which he amplified electrically with a pickup . Since the 1970s he has mostly played an electric guitar , often a Fender Stratocaster , but also a Gibson semi-resonance guitar . Usually he played in the key of E major on a standard tuned guitar with a thumb pick . In some other songs, Hopkins also played in the first position in the key of C major - most of these songs then had more of a folk character than a blues character. In these songs Hopkins plucked an alternating bass on his guitar while he accompanied his blues songs with a walking bass or the respective root note of the chord . In addition to the guitar, which was his main instrument in addition to singing, Hopkins also played the piano and organ .

Hopkins was a headstrong musician when it came to time signature and harmony schemes. This had its origin in the fact that his already mentioned cousin Texas Alexander also did not adhere to any rules, especially since he was only a singer. It was not always easy for many accompanying musicians to adequately support Hopkins.

He mainly influenced Buddy Guy , Louisiana Red , Wild Child Butler and Jimmie Vaughan , but also the singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt , who often played songs by Hopkins at his concerts, and the Texas rockabilly musician Sonny Fisher . A song named after Hopkins was released by REM on their album Document .

In 1980 Sam Lightnin 'Hopkins was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame .


  • 1959 - Lightnin 'Hopkins Strums the Blues (Score)
  • 1959 - Lightnin 'Hopkins (Folkways)
  • 1959 - Lightnin 'and the Blues (Herald)
  • 1960 - Country Blues (Tradition Records)
  • 1960 - Last Night Blues (Bluesville Records)
  • 1960 - Mojo Hand (Fire Records)
  • 1960 - Lightnin '(Bluesville)
  • 1960 - Lightnin 'In New York (Candid Records)
  • 1961 - Autobiography in Blues (Tradition)
  • 1961 - Blues in My Bottle (Bluesville)
  • 1962 Walkin 'This Road By Myself (Bluesville)
  • 1962 - Lightnin 'and Co. (Bluesville)
  • 1962 - Lightnin 'Strikes (Vee-Jay Records)
  • 1963 - Blues Hoot (Vee-Jay Records; live at The Ash Grove 1961 with Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, and Big Joe Williams)
  • 1963 - Smokes Like Lightnin '(Bluesville)
  • 1963 Goin 'Away (Bluesville)
  • 1964 - Down Home Blues (Bluesville)
  • 1965 - Hootin 'the Blues (Bluesville)
  • 1965 - Lightnin 'Strikes (Tradition)
  • 1965 - The Roots of Lightnin 'Hopkins (Verve Folkways)
  • 1966 - Soul Blues (Bluesville)
  • 1967 - My Life in the Blues (Bluesville)
  • 1967 - Original Folk Blues (Kent Records)
  • 1967 - Lightnin '! (Arhoolie Records)
  • 1968 - Freeform Patterns (International Artists)
  • 1969 - California Mudslide (and Earthquake)
  • 1971 - Dirty Blues
  • 1991 - Swarthmore Concert Live, 1964
  • 1991 - Sittin 'in with Lightnin' Hopkins (Mainstream Records)
  • 1991 - The Hopkins Bros. (Arhoolie Records, with his brothers Joel and John Henry)
  • 1992 - Lonesome Life (Home Cooking / Collectables)
  • 1992 - It's a Sin to Be Rich (Gitanes Jazz Productions)
  • 1993 - Mojo Hand: The Lightnin 'Hopkins Anthology (Rhino Records)
  • 1995 - Po 'Lightning
  • 1999 - The Very Best of Lightnin 'Hopkins


  • Alan Govenar: Lightnin 'Hopkins: His Life and Blues . Chicago Review Press, 2010, ISBN 978-1-55652-962-7 ( limited preview in Google Book Search).
  • Jörg Sommermeyer: Sam "Lightnin" Hopkins (15.3.1912-31. [!] 1.1982). In: Guitar & Laute , 4, 1982, issue 3, p. 131 f.
  • Timothy J. O'Brien, David Ensminger: Mojo Hand: The Life And Music Of Lightnin 'Hopkins . University of Texas Press, Austin 2013, ISBN 978-0-292-74515-5

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