Mississippi John Hurt

10 Examples of Bob Dylan Before Bob Dylan: #2. Mississippi John Hurt

It is difficult to find any new words of praise on Bob Dylan. He remains one of the true icons of popular music. However, he is not a trailblazer. His roots and inspirations are easily found. No discredit against Dylan meant. He is every bit the icon as everyone says But here is the 1st of ten people who did what Dylan does just way before him. Introducing:


Mississippi John Hurt: Traveling Troubadour

Born sometime between 1892 and 1893 in Teoc, Ms, Mississippi John Hurt’s music was unique among his blues brethren. More folk than blues, Hurt’s sound was plaintive and clear. It would fall under the genre listing of “Country Blues,”  and would sound more in place in forty years later from when Hurt first recorded in 1928.

Rock history, or so rock historians would lead us to believe, (Very nicely documented in Peter Doggett’s book Are You Ready For the Country), was changed when Bob Dylan released his 1968 album John Wesley Harding. After years of heavy touring, drinking and on and off drug use, Dylan withdrew from public life after the end Blonde on Blonde tour, as well as a disputed motorcycle accident. Dylan would reappear a year later working with The Band in what would become The Basement Tapes. However, John Wesley Harding would be the first the public would hear from him.

It was a sharp contrast to the deafening sonic boom going on in pop music, lead by The Who, Cream and Jimi Hendrix to name a few. It also contrasted sharply to Dylan’s previous album, the frantic word collage of a manic genius that was Blonde on Blonde. It was Mississippi John Hurt.

Numerous artists have covered Hurt’s songs, as well. His style of blues inspired numerous recording musicians who ruled the 1960s. Hurt would reemerge in that time as well. As his entry in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia notes:

Tom Hoskins, a blues enthusiast, located Hurt in 1963 and persuaded him to move to Washington, D.C. He was recorded by the Library of Congress in 1964. This helped further the American folk music revival, which had led to the rediscovery of many other bluesmen of Hurt’s era. Hurt performed on the university and coffeehouse concert circuit with other Delta blues musicians who were brought out of retirement. He also recorded several albums for Vanguard Records.

Before he died in November of 1966, Hurt would lead scholars to the whereabouts of next subject Skip James.