DELTA'S ALPHA MALE

By BILLY HELLER
New York Post

By any measure, it's been a decent year for David "Honey boy" Edwards.

He won a Grammy for his work on "Last of the Delta Bluesmen," had a part in the feature film "Walk Hard," is touring and has a new album out, "Roamin' and Ramblin' " (earwigmusic.com).

Not bad for a man who didn't even have electricity in his house when he was growing up in the Mississippi countryside.

And at 92, Edwards must be thinking about the future, because he treated himself to a new Gibson six-string at a Chicago guitar store the other day. It's a long way from when he first played, inspired by his father.

"My daddy was a sharecropper, and he played music for hisself. He played guitar and violin," Edwards says, pronouncing it "GIT-ar."

"Every time he put his guitar down, I'd pick it up.

"My daddy got me my first guitar in 1928 - I was 13. He bought it from a man who ordered it from Sears, Roebuck and paid by the month. He paid $8 for it, and my daddy gave him $4 for it. That was a lot of money back then."

In addition to making music (ragtime and other dance music, Edwards says), his father made whiskey "out of corn, rye and sugar," and "home-brewed beer" - which he tried at 13 and got drunk for the first time.

In his long career - which took him from his Mississippi Delta home north to Chicago, where he lives today - Edwards has played with a host of blues legends: Charlie Patton, Sonny Boy Williamson, Lightnin' Hopkins, Magic Sam, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson among them.

As for the legend that Johnson sold his soul to the devil for the skill to play the blues, Edwards, who played with him in 1937, says: "He told me he sold his soul to the devil, but I don't know. He told everybody he did it. He coulda done it. I know I didn't."

In 1942, Edwards was recorded for the first time, by folklorist/musicologist Alan Lomax collecting songs for the Library of Congress. Lomax gave him $20 for his efforts, Edwards says.

He hadn't made a record before that because, he says, "I didn't care about no recordings. I was gambling, running around and making more money [playing music] up and down the streets."

Traveling in the South, Edwards played in "li'l ol' clubs and beer parlors and at country dances."

Saturday, with Koko Taylor and others, Edwards plays at Town Hall for the National Heritage Masters: Blues Legends show.

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