Al Young title

In Memoriam: SNOOKS EAGLIN

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80902778CG050_NEW_ORLEANS_J © Getty Images

Fird “Snooks” Eaglin, Jr.
New Orleans rhythm & blues songster
(January 21, 1936 – February 18, 2009)

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Whether you watched or just listening to him, you were bound to be moved. Snooks Eaglin radiated soul, the real thing, and that was that. Some considered him “a human jukebox,” while others tapped into just one of his many facets — country bluesman, folksinger, street musician, urban soul singer, rhythm & bluesman, take your pick — and put up with the rest. You never knew what Snooks was going to play. One of my favorites is his version of Curtis Mayfield’s “It’s All Right,” except Snooks takes the song and does to it what he does with all the songs he covered. He made them into Snooks Eaglin songs that yuou preferred to the originals. The3 cry in his voice was always fresh, and so was the laughter. When Snooks Eaglin sings “St. James Infirmary,” you are present at the viewing of that woman “stretched out on a long white table, / So sweet, so cold, so fair.” The word perfunctory would go out of business if you had to use it to describe anything about Snooks Eaglin. He always sounds fresh and unpredictable. New Orleans through and through, the great singer and self-styled guitarist loved his homebase. You can hear in him all the Crescent City spirit that Hurricane  Katrina and her flood couldn’t kill off. “All right!” he shouted at the start of every song. All right, Snooks Eaglin, all right, all right! The 50 years I’ve spent listening to you and cultivating the sound-seeds and pictures you planted in my heart have helped keep me sane and satisfied.

— Al Young

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Hello, Al —

As you know I have always loved Snooks Eaglin and aspired to get my own music anywhere near where he was from the start, and that was fifty years ago. Ironically, it was only last Wednesday night when I performed my once-a-year concert locally. I had a small trio, and felt for the first time I was doing something in the spirit of Snooks Eaglin. Ain’t that jess how it goes! Friday morning I read that he had died.

What a loss. Your descriptions about him cover what I feel, other than I feel nobody else was doing the New Orleans style of accompaniment on guitar. I mean strumming the rhythm, fitting in a bass line at the same time, and putting in sporadic lead lines like filligree work … and all the while singing with that ever so wistful soul voice of his. Top this off with a fine dose of originality and taste and  the songs always came out in an improved version.

Way back, maybe 1961, there was the first mail-order catalogue for folk music items, put out by the Denver Folklore Center. I was working in that area and Harry Tuft, the owner, asked me about Snooks Eaglin. I am proud that I replied that he was the “greatest” even way back then, and they put that quote in the catalogue.

So, I’ve been a fan of Blind Snooks Eaglin since I started in music, and I still am.

Amongst his many talents I feel one has gone unnoticed, so I will mention here that his instrumental rendition of “High Society” is among the very greatest finger-style guitar pieces I have ever heard, and he recorded that on his early New Orleans Street Singer album , which I think was 1959 on Folkways Records.

Thanks to you for posting such a nice link.

Marc Silber
Berkeley, CA

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snooks-eaglin-sf-blues-festival

Snooks Eaglin plays the San Francisco Blues Festival,1996
Photo © Michael Mendelson

snooks-on-arhoolie1 snooks-eaglin-heritage snooks-geo-porter

Country Boy in New Orleans | Rural Blues | Eaglin with George Porter, Jr.

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Snooks Eaglin’s Wikipedia entry

npr-logo spkr Lars Gotrich: Soul Guitarist Snooks Eaglin Dies at 72
(National Public Radio)

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spkr1 Snooks Eaglin sings “St. James Infirmary”

wee-play2 Snooks Eaglin and George Porter, Jr.  perform “Baby, Please” at the Lone Star Roadhouse, New York City

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