One Great Tune, Played All Night
Robert Belfour grew up in the North Mississippi Hill Country, a place long known for its utterly distinctive style of the blues. His father taught him the guitar, and he continued his schooling with the likes of R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. The Hill Country blues created by men like Robert was music for dancing in juke joints. It’s music that can put you in a trance, highly percussive and underpinned by rolling, almost otherworldly rhythms. Robert once told us that in juke joints, he might play the same song for four hours, then take a break and play it again for another three. All you needed was one tune and the ability to play it all night for people to drink and dance to.
“I could never get away from the guitar,” Robert once told us. “It was something that I could do, and then I could lay it down, set it back in the corner, and I had to go back and get it. Something always would bug me to play. I’d go to sleep with it in my lap.”
Robert’s father died when he was only 13, and he had to spend his teen years helping his mother provide for their family. In his late teens, he married and moved northward to Memphis, Tennessee, working for over three decades painting houses. He was in his 60s before he made his first recordings, and his powerful songwriting and unique guitar playing enthralled audiences around the globe.
Robert “Wolfman” Balfour was born on September 11, 1940. He died February 24, 2015.
Top photo by Axel Küstner.