Elder Roma Wilson

Decades: 1990s


22 December 1910, Hickory Flat, Mississippi, USA. Wilson taught himself to play harmonica as a small child and as a young adult he performed and sang while touring his home state and neighbouring Arkansas as an itinerant preacher. For some years he worked closely with the blind guitarist Leon Pinson and although the two played mainly religious music they sometimes added secular songs to their repertoire. In the 40s, the duo split up and Wilson settled in Detroit, Michigan, where he worked in a foundry until laid off and scraped a living as a street musician. In the late 40s he was covertly recorded by record store owner Joe Von Battle and the result was released on a 78 by Gotham Records. The two songs were ‘Lily Of The Valley’ and ‘Better Get Ready’, and Wilson’s harp playing was a minor sensation. A little later, he also recorded with his sons, whom he had taught to play harmonica, and guitarist daughter; amazingly, considering the...

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