|Arthur William Crudup|
|Big Boy Crudup
Percy Lee Crudup
August 24, 1905|
Forest, Mississippi, United States
|Died||March 28, 1974
Nassawadox, Virginia, United States
|Genres||Blues, Delta blues, rock and roll|
Arthur William "Big Boy" Crudup (August 24, 1905 - March 28, 1974) was an American Delta blues singer, songwriter and guitarist. He is best known outside blues circles for his songs "That's All Right" (1946), "My Baby Left Me" and "So Glad You're Mine", later recorded by Elvis Presley and other artists.
Crudup was born in Forest, Mississippi, to a family of migrant workers traveling through the South and Midwest. The family returned to Mississippi in 1926, where he sang gospel music. He began his career as a blues singer around Clarksdale, Mississippi. As a member of the Harmonizing Four, he visited Chicago in 1939. He stayed in Chicago to work as a solo musician but barely made a living as a street singer. The record producer Lester Melrose allegedly found him while Crudup was living in a packing crate, introduced him to Tampa Red and signed him to a recording contract with RCA Victor's Bluebird label.
He recorded with RCA in the late 1940s and with Ace Records, Checker Records and Trumpet Records in the early 1950s. He toured black clubs in the South, sometimes playing with Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James. He also recorded under the names Elmer James and Percy Lee Crudup. His songs "Mean Old 'Frisco Blues", "Who's Been Foolin' You" and "That's All Right" were popular in the South. These and his other songs "Rock Me Mama", "So Glad You're Mine", and "My Baby Left Me" have been recorded by many artists, including Elvis Presley, Elton John and Rod Stewart.
Crudup stopped recording in the 1950s, because of disputes over royalties. He said, "I realised I was making everybody rich, and here I was poor". His last Chicago session was in 1951. His 1952-54 recording sessions for Victor were held at radio station WGST, in Atlanta, Georgia. He returned to recording, for Fire Records and Delmark Records, and touring in 1965. Sometimes labeled "The Father of Rock and Roll", he accepted this title with some bemusement. During this time Crudup worked as a laborer to augment the low wages he received as a singer (he was not receiving royalties). After a dispute with Melrose over royalties, he returned to Mississippi and took up bootlegging. He later moved to Virginia, where he lived with his family, including three sons and several of his siblings, and worked as a field laborer. He occasionally sang in and supplied moonshine to drinking establishments, including one called the Dew-Drop Inn, in Northampton County.
In 1968, the blues promoter Dick Waterman began fighting for Crudup's royalties and reached an agreement in which Crudup would be paid $60,000. However, Hill and Range Songs, from which he was supposed to get the royalties, refused to sign the legal papers at the last minute, because the company thought it could not lose more money in legal action. In the early 1970s, two Virginia activists, Celia Santiago and Margaret Carter, assisted him in an attempt to gain royalties he felt he was due, with little success.
Crudup died in 1974, four years after the failed royalty settlement. There was some confusion about the date of death because of his use of several names, including those of his siblings. He died of complications of heart disease and diabetes in the Nassawadox hospital in Northampton County, Virginia, in March 1974.
Crudup has been honored with a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail, placed at Forest.Elvis Presley acknowledged Crudup's importance to rock and roll when he said, "If I had any ambition, it was to be as good as Arthur Crudup".