A great-grandchild of Delta Blues legend Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup (“crew dup”) is searching for people who can give her insight into this legendary man who put the Eastern Shore on the music world map.
The original request was sent to Connie Morrison at the Eastern Shore Post:
My name is Jarnicia Bush and I wanted to get more information on my great grandfather. I do not know any of my relatives closely from the Crudup family. The only Crudup I closely knew was my Grandfather, Jonas “J.C.” Crudup. He died of cancer when I was 13 years old. The time I spent with him was not much either. I just want to talk to some people who actually knew my family so I can, I guess, feel connected. Know myself. I want my children to know their family history so that we can be active in keeping their legacy, and their works of art alive. When I think of my family’s history, all I feel is sadness. I know there were happy times, right? Were there good times to remember. I want to know their personalities, what they did for fun, where did they hang out? Did they have friends? Real friends. Did everyone my Great Grandfather dealt with during his time in the music industry use him? Or did he make some lifelong friends who actually loved HIM and not just the works of art he created for them? I just want to know my family’s history, uncut. Just how it was. As if I knew them myself. I hope to get a response for you or from anyone who can help me obtain the information I seek. Thank you for listening.
If you can help Jarnica, please contact her via email at: email@example.com.
After touring England, Arthur Crudup wound up on the shore. He died in Nassawaddox in 1974. In the 1970s, Dynamite Custis owned and operated the Dynamite Custis Record Shop from 1955-1976. Arthur used to wait for the bus across the street at lloyd’s drug store and quickly became friends with Arthur, who then frequented the record store nearly every day.
History Notes: Elvis Presley acknowledged Crudup’s importance to rock and roll when he said, “If I had any ambition, it was to be as good as Arthur Crudup”. Presley recorded and made famous Crudup’s “That’s Alright, Mama”.
Arthur Crudup was born on August 24, 1905 in Forest, Mississippi. His father was a farmhand/musician and Arthur, by the age of ten, was singing in church choirs and Gospel quartets. Arthur was large, even as a child, and acquired his nickname early in life. For most of his early life he worked on the farm or as a labourer in lumber and levee camps.
In 1940 he travelled to Chicago as a member of the Harmonizing Four – a Gospel quartet. After breaking with the group Crudup sang on street corners for change and lived in a wooden crate. His music came to the attention of Lester Melrose, a Blues producer who got him a recording contract on (RCA)Victor’s Bluebird label.
He made his first recording with Bluebird in 1941, at the age of 36. His guitar technique was primitive, using only a few basic chords, but it was enough to express his simple but plaintive songs.
Crudup continued to record on the Bluebird label until 1952, but ended his relationship with Melrose in 1947 over royalty disputes. Lack of income from his songs forced Crudup to keep returning to the labour camps after each recording date.
He knew his Blues classics like “Rock Me Mama,” “Mean Old Frisco,” and “My Baby Left Me” were earning royalties because they were being performed by the likes of B.B. King, Big Mama Thornton and Bobby “Blue” Bland. “I was making everybody rich,” Crudup complained, “and here I am poor!”