PHOTOGRAPH | BILL STEBER
HOUSTON INSTITUTE FOR CULTURE | FEATURED ARTIST
Hellhound, Ebenezer, MS, 1997
Lonnie Pitchford holds a dog skull found near the porch of a juke house he used to play in as a teenager. Until his death at age 43 in November of 1998, Pitchford was the most masterful interpreter of the music of Robert Johnson. Like Johnson, Pitchford was a shy genius whose musical gifts set him apart from his contemporaries. Pitchford's approach to his music came from his immersion in and understanding of the same rural Mississippi culture that produced other great blues men of the past, a modern rarity considering that most bluesmen of his generation, both black and white, no longer come from the original culture that produced the Blues. Also like Johnson, Pitchford lived his life on a self-destructive path as if being pursued by supernatural forces. In Robert Johnson's most haunting song, "Hellhound on my Trail," he sang "Got to keep moving, got to keep moving/ Blues falling down like hail, blues falling down like hail/ And the day keeps on 'minding me/ There's a Hellhound on my trail, Hellhound on my trail."