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About Garfield Akers

The throbbing guitar sound of Garfield Akers was a primary influence on subsequent generations of Mississippi bluesmen, with the likes of John Lee Hooker and Robert Wilkins citing him as an influence. Born around 1902 in Bates, Mississippi, Akers remains a shadowy figure; after honing his skills at local dances and house parties, he relocated to the Hernando area, where he worked by day as a sharecropper. After moving on to Memphis, in 1929 he made his first Vocalion label recordings at the Peabody, accompanied by guitarist Joe Callicott; between this first date and a 1930 session for Brunswick, four Akers performances still exist -- his two-part signature "Cottonfield Blues," "Jumpin' and Shoutin' Blues," and "Dough Roller Blues," one of the first variations on Hambone Willie Newbern's seminal "Roll and Tumble." All reflect a distinctively insistent guitar style, and also reveal a high-pitched, almost otherworldly voice. Akers remained an active presence on the south Memphis circuit throughout the 1930s, briefly resurfacing in the early 1950s before fading back into obscurity; he is believed to have died around 1959. ~ Jason Ankeny