Posts Tagged ‘Henry Ragtime Texas Thomas’

Born in 1874 in Upshur County, Texas, 1 or 9 children.  His parents were slaves.  He spent much of his life hoboing around and along the Texas and Pacific Railroad (“Ragtime Texas” was his hobo name).  He recorded from 1927-1929.  Most of the blues musicians who recorded in the 1920s were in their twenties, but Ragtime Texas was already 53 when he started recording.

Who is Henry “Ragtime Texas” Thomas? Possibly the “missing link” between the other minstrel songs and the more recognizable blues songs!   Back when folks like Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, etc. were recording, they were in their 20′s. When Robert Johnson was recording, Ragtime Texas was supposedly already gone (though there are reports of him being sighted in the 1950s).  When the first blues guitar was recorded by Blind Lemon Jefferson in 1927, Ragtime Texas was already 53. This means that Ragtime texas probably had most of his repertoire down before the turn of the century, probably by a good decade or so. His style of blues is less heartfelt pain, and more storytelling, and thus serves as a bridge between the “songsters” from the early to late 1800 and the early bluesmen. He was also a Hobo (Ragtime Texas was his “Hobo name”) and the hobos were known for their own style of folk music, which was probably extremely similar to what he was playing. The repertoire included work songs, slave songs, and folk songs, which eventually melded.

His legacy has been sustained by four songs. “Fishin’ Blues” was covered by Taj Mahal and The Lovin’ Spoonful; “Bull Doze Blues” was recorded by Canned Heat (retitled “Goin’ Up The Country”); “Don’t Ease Me In” was covered by the Grateful Dead on their album Go to Heaven; and “Honey Won’t You Allow Me One More Chance” was covered by Bob Dylan (as “Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance”) on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.

There whereabouts of Thomas after 1929 have not been chronicled, although he was reportedly seen in Texas in the 1950s.  The date and circumstances of his death are uncertain. His complete Vocalion recordings were compiled on a 1990 Yazoo Records CD titled Texas Worried Blues.

Further (short) reading:

http://www.cascadeblues.org/History/HenryThomas.htm

More videos and songs