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Blind Joe Reynolds Used Music to Speak Out

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Born in Tallulah, Louisiana, Blues guitarist and songwriter, Blind Joe Reynolds recorded eight songs with Paramount Records and Victor Records.  Reynolds was given the nickname “Blind Joe” after losing both of his eyes from a shotgun blast following an altercation.

Although left blind, Reynolds remained outspoken and candid by often using his music as a tool to speak out against societal injustices.

After spending most of his adolescent years in Richwood, Louisiana, Reynolds left home and became a traveling musician. While performing on street corners, Reynolds was spotted by musical talent scout, H.C. Speir, and began recording music for the first time in Grafton, Wisconsin.

“Cold Woman Blues”, “Nelhi Blues” and “Outside Woman Blues” became his first recordings by Paramount Pictures. In the following years, Reynolds recorded in New York and New Jersey.

Although most of his recordings are now forgotten or misplaced, the record, “Outside Woman Blues” later found fame in 1967 after it was re-recorded by British rock band Cream, for their album, “Disraeli Gears.”

When Reynolds was not performing or recording music, he spent time in Monroe, Louisiana with his family who lived close by. Linda Bowman, Reynolds' niece, said that her uncle's blindness did not slow down his passion for blues music. Sometimes, she said, she forgot her uncle was blind, once she realized she could not fool him by giving him the incorrect amount of money.

“It was weird because it seemed like he could actually see. But we examined… and he had no eyes,” explained Bowman. “One night we were walking from his house to my mom’s house. A dog tried to attack us and he shot the dog right between the eyes.”

In March of 1968, Reynolds suffered a stroke and was admitted into a Monroe hospital where he died soon after developing pneumonia. Despite his setbacks, Reynolds’ passionate and soulful music did not go unnoticed in the world of Blues.

Byway Blues is produced with the generous support of Washington Wine and Spirits, the Entergy Charitable Foundation, and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.