CHICAGO (Reuters) - Grammy-winning Delta bluesman David “Honeyboy” Edwards, whose emotional singing and eccentric timing thrilled audiences from his native Mississippi to Europe, has died at age 96, his manager said on Tuesday.
Edwards died on Monday from congestive heart failure, said manager Michael Frank, who also played harmonica in Edwards’ trio.
“Honeyboy was the quintessential Delta bluesman,” Frank said.
Edwards was among the last musicians to know and play with legendary bluesman Robert Johnson, who died in 1938, and his career was intertwined with the likes of Charlie Patton, Big Joe Williams, Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Walter, Little Walter and Muddy Waters.
Edwards, who was born in 1915 in Shaw, Mississippi, earned a 2008 Grammy Award for best traditional blues album for “Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live In Dallas.” He was awarded a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2010.
Edwards usually performed on acoustic guitar, sitting in a chair on stage, although he was in constant movement.
“He was a very emotional and physical player and singer,” Frank said. “He used his body in his stage performance for effect.
“He had an eccentric style, with unusual timing. He would make changes unpredictably. That was the Honeyboy test. (Musicians who sat in) found out very quickly you can’t just count. He would do some funny turnaround, or funny lick, then look over and just laugh, knowing he was messing with us,” Frank said.
Edwards, who fell ill in April, last toured Europe in 2009, performing 10 shows back to back in England, Frank said. On tour, he played in small clubs, theaters, and music festivals.
In 1942, archivist Alan Lomax recorded Edwards in Clarksdale, Mississippi, for the Library of Congress, according to his website. Edwards did not record again commercially until 1951, when he made “Who May Your Regular Be” for Arc Records.
Although known more for rearranging other blues artists’ tunes, Edwards wrote several songs including “Long Tall Woman Blues,” “Gamblin’ Man” and “Just Like Jesse James.”
Reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by Bill Trott