Roosevelt Sykes Biography

31 January 1906, Elmar, Arkansas, USA, d. 17 July 1983, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Sykes learned piano at the age of 12 and by the early 20s was playing in local barrelhouses. He moved to St. Louis in 1928 and his first recordings for OKeh Records and Victor Records were made from 1929-31. During the 30s, Sykes recorded for Decca Records and acted as a talent scout for the label. Among his most popular compositions were ‘Night Time Is The Right Time’ and ‘The Honeydripper’, which was Sykes’ nickname. He settled in Chicago in the early 40s, becoming the piano accompanist on numerous city blues records by artists such as St. Louis Jimmy and Lonnie Johnson. In 1954, he moved to New Orleans and continued to record prolifically for Decca, Spivey, Prestige Records, Folkways Records, Delmark Records and other labels. The Prestige album Honeydripper featured King Curtis on saxophone. His versatility in different piano styles meant that Sykes was well placed to take advantage of the increased European interest in blues and he made his first visit to the UK in 1961, performing with Chris Barber’s jazz band. He returned in 1965 and 1966 with the Folk Blues Festival package and played many US blues and jazz festivals in the 70s. As a result of his popularity with these new audiences, much of his pre-1945 work was reissued in the 70s and 80s.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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