Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI MUSICIANS: Charlie Musselwhite


Charlie Musselwhite Charlie Musselwhite

Major Works

  • Stand Back! Here Comes Charlie Musselwhite
  • Blues from Chicago
  • Stone Blues
  • Louisiana Fog
  • Chicago Blue Star
  • Tennessee Woman
  • Memphis Charlie
  • Mylon
  • Takin' My Time
  • Goin' Back Down South
  • Leave the Blues to Us
  • Light of Your Shadow
  • Times Gettin' Tougher Than Tough
  • Harmonica According to Charlie
  • Curtain Call
  • Dynatones LiveCharlie Musselwhite Continental Drifter
  • Memphis Tennessee
  • Tell Me Where Have All the Good Times Gone?
  • Mellow-Dee
  • Ace of Harps
  • Signature
  • Takin' Care of Business
  • In My Time
  • Rough News
  • Curtain Call Cocktails
  • Continental Drifter
  • Takin' My Time Goin' Back Down South

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Charlie Musselwhite: A Biography
By Darius Randle (SHS)

Charlie Musselwhite was born on January 31, 1944, in  Kosciusko, Mississippi. He  is a harmonica player and a singer and was one of the early white blues musicians. Musselwhite began playing the harmonica at the age of thirteen.  His father played the mandolin and was of Choctaw Indian ancestry (Clarke 840). Musselwhite  moved north to Memphis when he started high school (Forte) where he  went to school with Johnny Cash's brother, another singer (Program: Governor's Awards). Musselwhite  moved north in search of the at- the-time nearly uncommon $3.00 an hour job.

While in Memphis, he became a familiar face at blues haunts like Pepper's, Turners, and Theresa's. After a while he started sitting in with and sometimes playing along side harmonica lords like as Little Walters, Shakey Horton, Good Rockin Charles, Carey Bell, Big John Wrencher, and Sonny Boy Williamson (Forte).  Musselwhite was inspired to play the harmonica by hearing Sonny Terry on the radio, who was a harmonica great  himself.   Musselwhite mastered the harp and guitar thanks to Will Shade of the Memphis Jug Band (Santelli 304).The Blues never dies by Charlie Musselwhite

In 1962,  Musselwhite moved to Chicago. While in Chicago, he performed with Johnny Young, Big Joe Williams and J.B. Hutto. He also linked up with another white blues musician by name of Mike Bloomfield. Later he went to join Paul Butterfield's group (Larkin 2971). In Chicago he performed on Chicago's legendary Maxwell Street (Santelli 305).

Musselwhite moved to California where he made  his first solo recording for Vanguard (Larkin 2971). Before recording his first album, Musselwhite appeared on LP's by Tracey Nelson, John Hammond. Charlie also dueted (as Memphis Charlie) with Shakey Horton on a Vanguard series. During his time in California, he traveled around the Bay Area playing in bars which resulted in a low profile but still national tour (Forte). A growing reputation made Musselwhite a favorite on the festival circuits in the U.S.A. and Europe (Larkin 2971-2972).  Musselwhite  recorded "Mellow Dee" during a German tour and "Cambridge Blues Live" for Mike Vernon's Blue Horizon label.at Britain's leading folk festival.

In 1966 his first album, "Stand Back!  Here Comes Charlie Musselwhite's Southside Blues Band," became one of the first critically-acclaimed blues albums by a white musician (Program: Governor's Awards). Around 1968, he performed in the United States at  many of the period's biggest blues festivals. In 1971, he signed with Arhoolie records. He also has recorded  with many other labels:   Paramount, Capitol, and Kicking Mule (Santelli 305). From 1974-75 he recorded an album for Chris Strachwitx Arhoolic label and did an instructional record for Stetan Grossman's Kicking Mule (Forte).

In 1981, he married a woman by the name of Henrietta, and his best man was the blues great, John Lee Hooker (Program Notes for Governor's Awards 2000). Around the world Charlie Musselwhite is known as a blues harmonica artist and guitarist. He has done many tours around the world,  and he usually ends his concert with this advice, "If you love the blues, you need to make the pilgrimage, not a trip, but a pilgrimage to Clarksdale and the Mississippi Delta. This is where all the greats come from: Charlie Patton, Son House and Muddy Waters, blues come right out the ground, you can reach down and put some in your pocket." Student researcher, Darius Randle

Two serious accidents have marred Musselwhite's life in the past two years.  In December, 1999,  Musselwhite's car was broad sided by an 18 wheeler while he was vacationing in Mexico.  The accident resulted in a hospital stay of several weeks for Musselwhite.  In October of 2000, Henrietta, Musselwhite's wife, was bitten by a shark in the waters off Maui.  Both Musselwhite and his wife have recovered from their injuries.

In March of 2000 he won The Artist's Achievement Award, which is a Mississippi Governor's Awards For Excellence in the Arts. Musselwhite also is a six-time winner of the W.C. Handy Award. The New York Times has called him a "harmonica master." Charlie can play the harmonica so well that critics claim he can make the harmonica sing the blues without words (Program). In 1990, he signed with Alligator records and hit the charts with an album called Ace of Harps (Santelli 305). In 1999, he toured in Europe with B.B. King, a fellow Mississippian. "Continental Drifter" is his current C.D.  In 1967, he moved to Sonoma Valley, California, where he lives today (Program).

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Timeline

1944- Charlie was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, on January 31
1957- He started playing the harmonica at the age of 13 The Best of Charlie Musselwhite
1959- Moved to Memphis
1962- moved to Chicago
1968- He began performing  in the U.S. in many blues festivals
1967- Moved to Sonoma Valley, California
1971- Signed with Arhoolie Records
1974- He recorded an album Arhoolie label
1975- He recorded an instructional record for Kickin' Mule
1981-Married  a women by the name of Henrietta
1990- Signed with Alligator Record
1999- Toured in Europe
2000- In March he won a Mississippi Governor's Award for the Arts

Charlie's Accomplishments

  • Six-Time Winner of the W.C. Handy Award
  • Governor's Award: The Artist's Achievement Award 2000
  • Being called an "Harmonica Master" by the New York Time
  • Known as one of the best white blues musician
  • Plays in the major blues festivals around the United States and all over the world.

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Related WebsitesJohn Lee Hooker and Charlie Musselwhite at Musselwhite's wedding.

Read the newspaper article "Charlie Musselwhite Honored by Governor."
This page shows pictures and give biography
This web site shows pictures of album and give major works

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Bibliography

Clarke, Donald ed. "Musselwhite,Charlie." The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music. New York: Penguin,1989. 840-841.

Larkin, Colin ed. "Musselwhite, Charlie." The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music. New York: Stockton Press, 1995. 2971-2972.

Forte,Dan. "Charlie Musselwhite." All Music Guide. [Online] Available http://allmusic.com/cg/x.ddll?p=arng&sql+sql=b472,

Santelli,Robert. "Musselwhite,Charlie." The Big Book of Blues. New York: Penguin, 1993. 304-305.

Governor's Awards For Excellence in the Arts (Program). March 17, 2000

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