Saturday, 13 October 2012 | Art Schuna
Henry Townsend was born October 27, 1909 in Shelby, Mississippi and grew up in Cairo, Illinois. He moved to St. Louis when he was young and this was his home for most of his life. He began performing and recording with Walter Davis on piano. He first recorded music in 1929 for the Paramount label in Grafton, Wisconsin and recorded in 9 decades of his career. In 1999 University of Illinois Press published his autobiography “A Blues Life As Told To Bill Greensmith”. He was equally adept with a guitar and the piano, but later in life as his fingers became less nimble, he preferred the piano. He died in 1996, hours after receiving an award on Grafton’s Paramount Plaza Walk of Fame. He postumously won his first Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album in the 2008 Grammy Awards for his recording “Last of the Great Mississippi Bluesmen: Live In Dallas” released by the Blue Shoes Project in 2007. This recording also featured Honeyboy Edwards, Robert Junior Lockwood and Pinetop Perkins, all of whom, sadly, are no longer with us. I had the good fortune of being able to attend a number of performances by Henry Townsend as he was frequently invited to the Chicago Blues Festival. I phoned Henry at his home in St. Louis in 2003 for this interview. Click on the title above to access the interview.