Roosevelt Sykes (January 31, 1906 – July 17, 1983) was an American blues musician, also known as “The Honeydripper”. He was a successful and prolific cigar-chomping blues piano player, whose rollicking thundering boogie-woogie was highly influential. Born in Elmar, Arkansas, Sykes grew up near Helena but at age 15, went on the road playing piano with a barrelhouse style of blues. In 1929 he was spotted by a talent scout and sent to New York to record for Okeh Records.His first release was “’44’ Blues” which became a blues standard and his trademark. He quickly began recording for multiple labels under various names including ‘Easy Papa Johnson’, ‘Dobby Bragg’ and ‘Willie Kelly’. After he and Oden moved to Chicago he found his first period of fame when he signed with Decca Records in 1934. In 1943, he signed with Bluebird Records and recorded with ‘The Honeydrippers’. Roosevelt left Chicago in 1954 for New Orleans as electric blues was taking over the Chicago blues clubs. When he returned to recording in the 1960s it was for labels such as Delmark, Bluesville, Storyville and Folkways that were documenting the quickly passing blues history. He lived out his final years in New Orleans, where he died from a heart attack on July 17, 1983. Sykes had a long career spanning the pre-war and postwar eras. His pounding piano boogies and risqué lyrics characterize his contributions to the blues. He was responsible for influential blues songs such as “44 Blues”, “Driving Wheel”, and “Night Time Is the Right Time”. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Gennett Records Walk of Fame in 2011.
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