Huddie William Ledbetter (January 1888 or 1889-December 1949), better known as Lead Belly, was born and raised in Louisiana. He played the guitar at a young age, and attempted to make a living by playing it during his adult years, years spent mostly in Texas.
His career as a musician was regularly interrupted. Lead Belly was in and out of Southern jails, prisons, and labor camps for much of his adult life. He was convicted of attempted homicide in 1930 and sentenced to the infamous Angola Prison Farm in Loyisiana.
That’s where he was in 1933 when pioneering musicologist, archivist, and folklorist John Lomax, accompanied by his son Alan, visited “the Farm” to record African American musicians for posterity.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Here he is performing “House of the Rising Sun.”