- AARP - https://blog.aarp.org -

The Last of the Real Mississippi Bluesmen

James Lewis Carter “T-Model” Ford didn’t take up the guitar until he was 58, when his fifth wife ran off for good, giving him the instrument as a parting gift. As the story goes, the native Mississippian stayed up that whole night, drinking moonshine to dull his heartache as he started teaching himself how how to play the blues. When he got the hang of it, it sounded like this:

James Lewis Carter 'T-Model- Ford, Late Blues MusicanThat Ford, who died in Greenville, Miss., on July 16 at age 89 – or 93, depending on who you ask – didn’t have any musical training didn’t matter much: What he lacked in technical skill he made up for in feeling. He’d lived the sort of life that spawned the blues in the first place, from picking crops in the Mississippi delta to doing time on a chain gang, to loving and losing more women than most men ever even know.

Here he is in 2008, backed by the blues band GravelRoad:


It’s no wonder that Ford has been described as the last of the authentic Mississippi bluesmen. Whether or not that was true, over the past several decades,the self-taught guitarist and singer became a musical phenomenon – recording seven albums, performing at festivals such as Austin’s South By Southwest, and getting rave reviews for his raw, raucous style.

Here are some interesting facts about a remarkable performer:


Here’s Ford performing at a music festival in 2009.


Photo: Bobincasco via Wikipedia


Also of Interest


See the AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more