Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup

arthurcrudup_002Arthur Crudup was born in 1905 in Jackson, Mississippi, and grew up in Forest, a town 40 miles west. He worked mainly as a sharecropper, but also as a levee worker, logger and sanitation worker.

In 1939 he took up the guitar and the following year he moved to Chicago, where he played on street corners. At night he slept in a pasteboard carton stuck in a crevice under an "L" train bridge, waking at 5:00 am before the police could roust him.

Crudup was discovered by Tampa Red, a known blues singer, and Lester Melrose, a field agent for Bluebird Records and its parent company, RCA-Victor.

He made a number of recordings for Melrose, released on Bluebird and later RCA, from 1941 to 1956. He would cut a song, receive the customary "recording fee" and leave the studio.

During this time, at the height of his popularity, he worked days on a farm when the crops were good, or as a sanitation man. At nights he would play local bars.

In 1954, Elvis Presley recorded the Crudup composition That's All Right Mama (originally released in 1946) as his first record and later did two other Crudup songs. Sadly, Arthur received no royalties from Melrose at RCA.

In the late 1960s, like many old bluesmen, Crudup broke a long retirement on the heels of the revived interest in the blues on the part of white teenagers.