Roosevelt Sykes (1906-1983)
(2011 INDUCTEE) CONSIDERED THE FATHER OF THE MODERN BLUES PIANO STYLE, ROOSEVELT SYKES WAS ALSO A VOCALIST AND COMPOSER. HE RECORDED FOR GENNETT IN RICHMOND ON THE CHAMPION LABEL IN 1932.
DONATED IN HONOR OF DAVID FULTON AND HIS UNWARERING BELIEF IN THE STARR-GENNETT LEGACY BY RSD AND GENNETT DESCENDENTS.
Roosevelt “the Honeydripper” Sykes was born in Elmar, Arkansas, but moved to St. Louis when he was quite young. He learned to play the organ in a local West Helena church and as a young teenager taught himself blues piano. In 1921, Sykes left home to work as an itinerant pianist, playing in gin joints, house parties, and barrelhouses in the south, and north to St. Louis and Chicago. Sykes developed a striking style of simple bass lines with his left hand paired with amazing rhythmic complexity with the right hand.In July 1929, he cut five sides for Paramount at the Gennett studio in Richmond, Indiana, under the pseudonym of Dobby Bragg. Sykes returned to Richmond in September, 1932, to cut six sides, including the popular “Highway 61 Blues,” under his own name for Champion Records, one of Gennett’s many subsidiary labels. He continued to record solo for several labels, remained a sought after session player, and formed his touring band, the Honeydrippers. During the folk and blues revival of the 60’s and 70’s, while living in New Orleans’ ninth ward, Sykes enjoyed a vibrant resurgence. He played college and club gigs as well as blues festivals in the US and Europe and continued to record until his death. Sykes had a long and fruitful career, enduring as an engaging entertainer, a technically proficient blues piano player, and a wonderful communicator with all his audiences.
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