“Most people, when they hear me play, they think it’s two guitars, because I play the bass and the other strings at the same time. They say, man that’s two guitars, and I say no, me, it’s just me by myself. They say, don’t believe you, it sounds like two guitars to me.” – Boo Hanks
Boo Hanks, a descendant of Abraham Lincoln on his mother’s side, is the greatest Piedmont Blues rediscovery in many years. He sings and plays guitar in the style of the legendary Blind Boy Fuller. At the age of 79, he made his first recording and at 82 he has enjoyed performances around home as well as Lincoln Center and Belgium.
How We Helped:
Music Maker Relief Foundation helped Boo Hanks obtain a passport, purchased a new trailer for him and provides him with a monthly stipend for prescription medicine. The organization has also gifted him with acoustic guitars and recorded his two CDs, in addition to booking him shows throughout the Southeast and in Belgium.
James Arthur “Boo” Hanks is an acoustic Blues guitarist, who began 75 years ago, with roots in the Piedmont string band and Blues traditions. He saved money for his first guitar by selling packets of garden seeds and it was with this guitar that he began picking out the same old-time songs he heard his father playing after long days in the tobacco field.
As a young man in the 1940s, Hanks earned pocket change playing guitar at barn dances with his cousins accompanying him on mandolin and spoons. His rich musical repertoire reflects his multi-ethnic heritage (his ancestors were white, African American, Occeenneechee Indian and family folklore believes they are descendants of Abraham Lincoln’s mother Mary Hanks.)
Today, Boo Hanks lives in Virgilina, Virginia, just over the North Carolina border, a stones throw from the rolling hills where he was born. Drawing from the deep musical well of his region, Boo Hanks showcases his virtuosity in the driving time and delicate finger-style guitar of the classic Piedmont Blues made famous by Blind Boy Fuller.