(July 7, 1913 – March 21, 2011)
The career of blues pianist Pinetop Perkins summarizes the entire history of the blues, from its origins in Mississippi in the early part of the twentieth century to its modern status as a classic form of American music. Perkins migrated with the blues itself, first to the Memphis, Tennessee, area and then to Chicago, where he performed in the band of blues great Muddy Waters at the height of Waters' fame. After striking out on his own, Perkins drew on a great wave of late-life creativity, becoming not just a living legend of the blues but a force driving the genre forward. He played with some of the most influential blues and rock and roll performers in American history. When he was well over 80, Perkins embarked on a 12-step program to break his addiction to alcohol. "Changing your life at 84 is quite unthinkable for most people," his friend Steve Tomashefsky told the New York Times. "It shows how intensely Pinetop wants to be out there playing." Recording seven albums between 1995 and 2004, Perkins became a beloved audience favorite at blues clubs and big outdoor festivals. Perkins also received numerous honors during his lifetime, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and induction into the Blues Hall of Fame.