Mississippi John Hurt was an American county and blues pioneer who knew little success during his life, but later became a legend. Raised in Avalon, Mississippi, Hurt taught himself how to play guitar before he reached ten years old. His style, which was completely self-taught, was quite fast and used syncopated fingerpicking. His influence spans many genres today, including blues, bluegrass, country and folk music.
Hurt’s early career was difficult; his first recording in 1928 at Okeh Records knew little commercial success. As he was in talks with Okeh Records about another album, the Great Depression unfolded and the record company went out of business. Hurt returned his native to Avalon, Mississippi to farm.
Some years later, a recording from 1928 was used in The Anthology of American Folk Music, landing in the hands of an Australian folk musicologist who became determined to find Hurt and deliver him from obscurity. In 1963, the man flew to the United States to search out Hurt–a huge deal back then–and helped to re-launch his career. The same year, he performed at the Newport Folk Festival where he was (finally) recognized as a “living legend.” He moved to Washington, D.C. and began performing again on stages in colleges, concert halls, and coffee houses. His late career included three more albums, including a collection that was entered into the Library of Congress.