Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Beardliest Blues Man

Metal, as I have frequently noted, is known for the hairiness of its practitioners. That works out well, considering that beardliness falls right behind metalness on the list of topics I typically cover on this blog. However, as some of you will know from previous posts and comments I've made, I also have a deep and abiding love for the blues. Sadly, the same levels of bearded excellence are not to be found in that musical medium. Obviously there are a lot of perfectly valid social reasons for that, but the fact remains that there is a definite scarcity of beards in old blues music. The typical image of an old Delta-blues man generally involves a clean-shaven face and an old-fashioned suit to accompany the weathered acoustic guitar with which he made his living.

There are, however, some exceptions to this norm. The most impressively bearded of all the old blues masters was, in my humble opinion, Sam Chatmon of the Mississippi Sheiks. So today (for no particular reason other than that I'm in the right frame of mind after spending the evening drinking coffee, stroking my beard, playing guitar, and listening to a string of great old blues songs) I'd like to take a moment to honor the king of the bearded blues, Sam Chatmon.


  1. Now that you mention it, it is a little bit odd that more blues musicians didn't have beards. I'm not sure what social reasons you're referring to, but given the racial makeup of the blues I would think pseudofolliculitis barbae would play a role.

  2. I think the biggest factor was the fragile station of black men in the south prior to the Civil Rights Movement. They were put in a position of having to strive for respectability to the greatest possible degree in order to have even the smallest opportunities made available to them. In the first half of the 20th Century that generally meant wearing a suit and sporting short hair with a clean shave. If you look at photographs of early blues men, you'll find that they almost universally adhered to that code of appearance.