Eddie Boyd - Blues Pianist, singer, composer (1914 - 1994)
Starting out as a guitarist but ultimately making his name as a pianist, Eddie Boyd is universally known in blues circles for his powerful Five Long Years. But this oft covered Chess blues classic was by no means the only highlight of an excellent career.
Born on Frank Moore's Stovall plantation near Clarksdale in the heart of the fertile Mississippi delta (his cousin, Muddy Waters, was born there just a few months later), Boyd taught himself to play the guitar at a young age. After a hard day's work in the fields, he would take to the legendary Mississippi juke joints in the evening, playing and singing the blues to rowdy audiences of black workers. But it was a tough upbringing, and Boyd, frustrated by the unfair segregationist policies, ran into trouble after a fight with a white youth (some accounts suggest that Boyd threw a hayfork!). As a result of that incident, he joined the hordes of Southern blacks who moved further north to seek their fortune, and settled in Memphis around 1931.
The move to an even more stimulating musical environment soon rubbed off, and he learned to play the piano, developing a style that owed much to Roosevelt Sykes and Leroy Carr. He continued to play regularly in the city's bars and juke joints, often appearing on Beale Street as a pianist and singer with his band the Dixie Rhythm Boys.