Uploaded on Sep 13, 2010
Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup (August 24, 1905 — March 28, 1974) was a delta blues singer and guitarist.
He is best known outside blues circles for writing songs later covered by Elvis Presley and dozens of other artists, such as "That's All Right" (1946), "My Baby Left Me" and "So Glad You're Mine."
Arthur Crudup was born in Forest, Mississippi in 1905. For a time he lived and worked throughout the South and Midwest as a migrant worker. He and his family returned to Mississippi in 1926. He sang gospel, then began his career as a blues singer around Clarksdale, Mississippi. As a member of the Harmonizing Four he visited Chicago in 1939. Crudup stayed in Chicago to work as a solo musician, but barely made a living as a street singer. Record producer Lester Melrose allegedly found him while he was living in a packing crate, introduced him to Tampa Red and signed him to a recording contract with RCA Victor's Bluebird label.
He recorded with RCA in the late 1940s and with Ace Records, Checker Records and Trumpet Records in the early 1950s and toured throughout the country, specifically black establishments in the South, with Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James (around 1948). He also recorded under the names Elmer James and Percy Lee Crudup. He was popular in the South with records such as "Mean Old 'Frisco Blues", "Who's Been Foolin' You" and "That's All Right".
Crudup stopped recording in the 1950s, however, after further battles over royalties. His last Chicago session was in 1951. His 1952-54 recording sessions for Victor were held at radio station WGST in Atlanta, Georgia. He returned to recording with Fire Records and Delmark Records and touring in 1965. Sometimes labeled as "The Father of Rock and Roll", he accepted this title with some bemusement. Ungratified due to the loss of royalties, he would refer to his admirer Presley as 'Elvin Preston'.
Throughout this time Crudup worked as a laborer to augment the non-existent royalties and the small wages he received as a singer. Crudup returned to Mississippi after a dispute with Melrose over royalties, then went into bootlegging, and later moved to Virginia where he had lived and worked as a musician and laborer. In the early 1970s, two local Virginia activists, Celia Santiago and Margaret Carter, assisted him in an attempt to gain royalties he felt he was due, with little success.
From the mid 1960s, Crudup returned to bootlegging and working as an agricultural laborer, chiefly in Virginia, where he lived with his family including three sons and several of his own siblings. On the Eastern Shore of Virginia, while he lived in relative poverty as a field laborer, he occasionally sang and supplied moonshine to a number of drinking establishments, including one called the Dew Drop Inn, in Northampton County for some time prior to his death from complications of heart disease and diabetes. On a 1970 trip to the UK he recorded Roebuck Man with local musicians.
His last professional engagements were with Bonnie Raitt.
There was some confusion as to his actual date of death because of his use of several names, including those of his siblings. He died of a heart attack in the Nassawadox hospital in Northampton County, Virginia in 1974.
Crudup was honored with a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail placed at Forest.
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