Monday, 2 February 2015

Blues Monday #6: Special Agent by Sleepy John Estes

As with many blues greats of the age, the story of Sleepy John Estes is a fascinating and rather mysterious one. Having written and recorded classic tracks such as Milk Cow Blues and Drop Down Mama in the 30s, Estes all but disappeared from public life following his final recording session for Decca in 1940. He was rediscovered, now completely blind, in 1961 and became a star during the folk and blues revival that saw rejuvenated careers also for Son House, Mississippi John Hurt and the like. During the early sixties he also found an unexpected (by him) appreciation of his work in Europe, even recording a live album in England and Denmark.

Estes' nickname 'sleepy' was coined owing to his habit of nodding off with surprising regularity. Some put it down to a blood problem causing narcolepsy, while others claim he just drifted off when life became boring. His songs were about the people, cultures and events he experienced in his life, often purveying a sense of desolation and desperation. He's regarded as one of the greats, and rightly so. Special Agent was recorded in New York in 1938.


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