August 15th in African American History – William Lee Conley “Big Bill” Broonzy

William Lee Conley “Big Bill” BroonzyAugust 15, 1958 William Lee Conley “Big Bill” Broonzy, blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist, died.

Broonzy was born June 26, 1898 in Lake Dick, Arkansas but raised in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

He began playing music at an early age and at the age of ten made himself a fiddle from a cigar box and began playing spirituals and folk songs. Broonzy was drafted into the United States Army in 1917 and served two years in Europe during World War I. In 1920, he moved to Chicago, Illinois and released his first records in 1927.

Broonzy recorded over 350 compositions, most of which were released after his death. In 1980, he was an inaugural inductee into the Blues Hall of Fame and in 2007 he was an inaugural inductee into the Gannett Records Walk of Fame. His autobiography, “Big Bill Blues,” was published in 1955 and in 2011 “I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy” was published.

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