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The Importance of Being Leadbelly Women and Liquor that was his problem My father got him to marry his girl Martha and that settled him for a while a week or two He called himself the twelve-string champion guitar player of the world and I guess he was I never heard anybody who could play it better He loved being the best He wanted to stay the best as long as he was alive -Alan Lomax on Leadbelly Hes just a name on a lot of lists the fourth or fifth name on a list of influences never first and all too often not mentioned at all where appropriate Hes also an ex-convict who was a sweet old man only while sober which wasnt often enough But by looking at the people he influenced you can see that Huddie Ledbetter Leadbelly was redeemable no matter what he did aside from making music The self-proclaimed King of the Twelve-String Guitar was more aptly the Godfather of the Twelve-String Gui-tar being inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 as an influence He died poor and pitiful of a form of multiple sclerosis and six months afterward his first hit song was a million-seller for another group And every generation thereafter earned a new respect for a band that used one of his versions of a song The importance of Leadbelly lies not in his legendary evil ways it was in his great talent for making popular music To make note of his importance its important to note his discoverer John Lomax Lomax was on a constant search funded by the government to find its musical roots rather to preserve what it could of them once the portable recording device was created At the time Lomax met him Ledbetter was serving a sen-tence at the Angola Prison Farm in Louisiana for murder the second long stretch in prison for him During his
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