The Narcoleptic Bluesman
At the early age of six, John Adams Estes was blinded in one eye during an unfortunate sandlot baseball incident. He later lost vision in the other eye, allowing him to join the ranks of iconic blind bluesmen such as; Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie McTell, Blind Willie Johnson, Sonny Terry, and Blind Boy Fuller.
Obviously, Being Blind wasn’t the only Obstacle Sleepy John had to endure. His nickname spurs from his tendency to fall asleep while sitting on a stool or even standing up. These unintentional naps were later diagnosed as Narcolepsy, which is caused by blood pressure irregularity.
While there are no actual accounts (that I could find) of Sleepy falling asleep on-stage, I’d have to imagine when he was touring around the South playing every night, it happened at some point. Wouldn’t that be a site?
Estes was mentioned in the memoirs of Big Bill Broonzy as having judged a guitar contest in Chicago. Memphis Minnie had just recently moved to town, and found herself in a guitar duel with Big Bill. In a glorious upset Minnie beat Bill Broonzy and became wildly popular in the city’s blues circuit, all thanks to her fellow Tennessean, Sleepy . Whenever Sleepy John and his band were in Chicago they were regularly hired by Al Capone (who was crazy about the blues) and his people to play private parties and events. Now that sounds like a right proper good time to me.
- – Big Charlie
- Thank you Iain for for the recommendation. If you think you know some blues I ough’ta know E-mail me at BigCharlieSkinner@Gmail.Com
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