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Mississippi John Hurt was a modest farmer who grew up on the edge of the Mississippi Delta and stunned the music world with his unique three-fingered guitar style and warm, elegant vocals. Hurt's style and repertoire in some ways predated the blues, going deep into the roots of rural black music to ballads, ragtime and religious songs. His best-known recordings include versions of the ballads "Frankie and Johnny" and "John Henry," as well as the hauntingly lyric "Candy Man" and autobiographical pieces like "Avalon Blues." Historians now think that Mississippi John was born March 8, 1892 in Teoc, Mississippi, but grew up in Avalon. Hurt's apprenticeship was spent playing local dances, and in 1923 he began collaborating with the legendary white fiddler Willie Narmour, who got Hurt a recording contract with the OKeh company. In 1928 he recorded three sessions for them, and though the company initially listed his six 78s in their "old-time" catalogue, they finally released them as blues. Hurt was not called back into the studios, though, and these were to be his last recordings for 35 years. In 1963 a couple of folk music fans who had heard two of Hurt's records on the famed Harry Smith anthology drove to Avalon and persuaded him to start playing again. A dizzying round of festival appearances and recordings followed, including a legendary set at the Newport Folk Festival and an appearance on Pete Seeger's "Rainbow Quest" TV show. Hurt delighted young fans, living up to his famous saying, "Don't die 'til you're dead." On November 2, 1966, after enjoying four years of his second career, Mississippi John died in his sleep at his home in Grenada; he is buried near Avalon.

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