When David “Honeyboy” Edwards passed away in 2011, many major news outlets including the New York Times and Rolling Stone covered his death. It was said the 96-year old Edwards was the last of the old school bluesmen who literally had the ear of some of the most important figures in blues history.
Here was a fellow who was with Robert Johnson on the night he died in 1938. He hoboed and hopped freights with Big Joe Williams to play around the segregated south. He first learned his craft from the likes of Charlie Patton and was recorded by Alan Lomax in 1942. He lived through the 1927 Mississippi Flood, the Great Migration, fight for Civil Rights and other seminal events in our nation’s history.
Thanks to Honeyboy’s photographic memory, he could vividly recollect his colorful life in great detail. His biography, “The World Don’t Owe Me Nothing” is widely regarded as a must-read for blues lovers.
While Honeyboy might have said that the world didn’t owe him anything, his friend and fellow musician Jeff Dale feels otherwise. June 28, 2015 would have been Honeyboy’s hundredth birthday and Dale believes he owes it to Honeyboy—and blues fans all over the world—to release a DVD/CD celebrating Honeyboy’s final live performance in 2010.
The DVD/CD is called “David “Honeyboy” Edwards, I’m Gonna Tell You Somethin’ That I Know” in Los Angeles, CA. Jeff Dale and the South Woodlawners, along with Edwards’ manager, Michael Frank, accompanied Honeyboy at the sold-out show on September 4th.
Dale has screened the film once—at the Clarksdale (Mississippi) Film Festival in January. There, in a theater filled with hardcore blues lovers, Dale saw firsthand the impression that Honeyboy had on the audience.
Dale said, “The folks that attend the Clarksdale Film Fest are diehard blues fans and of course they all knew Honeyboy and had stories. At the end of the film when Honeyboy starts talking about his life, one woman wept. I think it’s because we will never see the likes of someone like him again. Everyone wanted a copy, which is why I want to make the DVD.”
But, producing a DVD/CD can turn out to be an expensive proposition. That’s why Dale is launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for his “labor of love.” He’s not in to turn a profit, but he does need to repay the video editor, mastering engineer, packaging designer and several others who worked on spec. Dale will also need to cover all the licensing fees associated with Honeyboy’s prolific output.
While covering license fees can be somewhat costly and problematic, Honeyboy’s monologue at the end of the video is a priceless remembrance of a man who pretty much saw and did it all. Dr. David Evans, Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Memphis summed it up in his liner notes. He said that, “there’s that great monologue at the end about his own career and his fabulous list of musical associates.”
Evans added that, “Back in the 1960s when I was doing blues research in Mississippi, there were still plenty of people who could talk about Charley Patton and Robert Johnson, but this video comes almost fifty years later! It seems incredible that we can watch and listen to an actual eye-witness talking about these great artists and giving a live impression of their music.”
Honeyboy certainly made an impression of Jeff Dale, even inspiring him to return to music after a 20-year hiatus. Dale recalled, “I was just beginning a career comeback and was racked with doubt about how a middle-aged guy would be received trying to make a living playing music. Then I met Honeyboy and thought, hell, look at him, He inspired me to do what I love.”
Dale said he first met Honeyboy backstage at a show of his in Chicago. Dale said, “We bonded immediately. Or at least I felt we did.” He added that, “We talked for over an hour only interrupted when the Heineken was empty and I had to get up to fetch him another.”
The stories from Honeyboy also flowed freely when Dale would visit him in Chicago. In addition to the regular bottles of Crown Royal, Dale once brought him a book on 1930s cars. Dale continued to be amazed that the man who hopped freights knew about every single make and model—down to the engine type.
Honeyboy Edwards also represented one of the last links to the actual mechanics of pre-World War 2 blues, which differed greatly from the more electrified blues music that sprung out of Chicago in the fifties. Dale noted that, “you go wherever the music takes you” and he is extremely grateful to have had Honeyboy’s tutelage.
Honeyboy was also happy to have Dale backing him with the phrase “you on me like a big bloodhound” representing high praise from the venerable musician.
Scenes like this, along with riffs from a real blues master, help “keep music from just being a footnote in history.” It is Dale’s hope that getting the film produced will help keep Honeyboy’s legacy alive. Like those field recordings of old, “David “Honeyboy” Edwards, I’m Gonna Tell You Somethin’ I Know” is a crucial link to the early days of the blues and needs to be preserved for posterity.
So, please consider passing the virtual tip jar for Honeyboy. Celebrate and honor him with some monies towards releasing a DVD/CD in his memory. Your donation could also help a deserving blues charity as Dale vowed that they will receive some funds once the $10,000 goal has been met.
The link to the Kickstarter campaign is below: