Lightnin’ Hopkins embodied the blues. His singing, guitar playing, his physical appearance, personality, and demeanor, were the blues. One of the most recognizable bluesmen to come out of Texas, Lightnin’ Hopkins went on to stake out an enduring and productive career with his own spontaneous and eclectic style of haunting vocals and accompanying guitar.
Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins was born in Centerville, Texas, on March 15, 1912. After his father died in 1915, the family (Sam, his mother and five brothers and sisters) moved to Leona. At age eight he made his first instrument, a cigar-box guitar with chicken-wire strings. By ten he was playing music with his cousin, Texas Alexander, and Blind Lemon Jefferson, who encouraged him to continue. Hopkins also played with his brothers, blues musicians John Henry and Joel.