Lightnin' Hopkins performance on Austin City Limits.
By the time he died, in 1982, he had become one of the great bluesmen, up there with Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson, and Muddy Waters. But no one knew a whole lot about him, beyond the fact that he was from East Texas, that he spent most of his life living alone in small rooms in dingy apartments in Houston’s Third Ward, that he gambled much of his money away, that he often performed and recorded on borrowed guitars, and that he seemed to have a hard time staying in tune. Part of that was his own doing: Lightnin’ told colorful stories about his past, and as he got older he amplified his Po’ Lightnin’ persona, a guy always mistreated by women and misunderstood and abused by everyone else. Part of it was the mythmaking of fans who saw him as the epitome of the blues: the guy with the shades, gold teeth, unlit cigar, and half-pint of whiskey or gin in his back pocket.