John Henry.

A friend of mine is posting Facebook posts about influential black americans for Black History Month. Today he posted about Lesley Riddle. I'm not going to pretend I know a lot about him, or Old Timey Country music, but it is something I am trying to explore while living in Johnson City. I've lifted part of his story from Wikipedia so you can read this while listening to this song. 

Lesley “Esley” Riddle (June 13, 1905 - July 13, 1980) was an African-American musician whose influence on the Carter Family helped to shape country music.

Riddle was born in Burnsville, North Carolina. He grew up with his paternal grandparents near Kingsport, Tennessee, not far from the Virginia border.

While working as a young man at a cement plant, he tripped on an auger. The resulting injury entailed the amputation of his right leg at the knee. While he recovered, he took up the guitar, developing an innovative picking and slide technique. Soon, he was collaborating with other musicians from Sullivan and Scott counties, including Steve Tarter, Harry Gay, Brownie McGhee and John Henry Lyons. One time, he met Blind Lemon Jefferson at Tarter’s house.

In 1928, Riddle met A.P. Carter, who had just founded the Carter Family country band. Riddle began to divide his time between Kingsport and the Carter home in Maces Spring, Virginia. Riddle and Carter embarked on song-collecting trips around the region: Riddle would act as a “human tape recorder,” memorizing the melody while Carter gathered lyrics.

The Carter Family went on to record a number of songs that Riddle either composed or transmitted, including “Cannonball Blues,” “Hello Stranger,” “I Know What It Means To Be Lonesome,” “Let the Church Roll On,” “Bear Creek Blues,” “March Winds Goin’,” “Blow My Blues Away” and “Lonesome For You.” Riddle’s guitar technique made an impression on Maybelle Carter.
— Info about Lesley Riddle on Wikipedia as of February 4, 2015

Without further ado, I present to you "John Henry" by Lesley "Esley" Riddle (lyrics here). 


I'm trying to learn more about Old Timey Country Music in Johnson City, so I've written a teeny, tiny bit about Johnson City and some of the notable musicians in the history of country music