R.I.P. Eddie Kirkland

I don't know what's worse: that bluesman Eddie Kirkland died in a car crash a few days ago, or that he apparently did it by making a total old-man-driving mistake.

Coming up been a sideman and road manager for John Lee Hooker from the very earliest days of Hooker's transformation from solo Delta-style troubadour to frontman of a revolving door of electrified blues bands, Kirkland had several brushes with full-on success -- sharing the legendary mid-'50s King Records' roster with icons like Albert King, James Brown, Johnny "Guitar Watson and Freddie King, playing with a pre-stardom Otis Redding, touring with Foghat at the peak of their popularity, being featured on DON KIRSHNER'S ROCK CONCERT alongside Muddy Waters and being "found" and recorded by multiple generation of blues/folk enthusiasts-turned-record-label-moguls -- but the kind of sustaining success eluded him.

Called "The Gypsy of the Blues" as much for his brutally peripatetic touring schedule as his trademark turban, Kirkland rocked the house live well into his 70s and 80s. [He was also one of the first guitarists to experiment with adding a seventh, bass string to his axe; the broader range, combined with his thumb and fingerpicking style, gave him a remarkably clear but fat sound.] Seeing him play, it was easy to believe that such youth and energy could never wane, much less be snuffed out. Here's the area where the crash is reported to have occurred; I don't see a lot of blind spots to hide a Greyhound bus while you're swinging a U-turn.

Here's Eddie Kirkland in far better days not so long ago:

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