Samuel David Lawhorn was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, on July 12, 1935, to J. C. and Estella Lawhorn. Soon afterward, his parents separated and his mother remarried. His stepfather's name was Ferman Gilbeit and in his early years, Gibeit was the only father that Sammy knew. The couple later moved to Chicago, leaving young Sammy behind to be raised by his grandparents in Arkansas.
Little Rock proved to be an inspiring locale for Sammy, as he became interested in the Blues music that he first heard being played by blind street musicians. Well-known musicians from Texas such as Lightnin' Hopkins, T-Bone Walker and Lowell Fulson would also pass through the city on occasion, catching the ear of the youngster.
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