Blues Music Birthdays: December 17th – 23rd

This week’s blues birthdays feature musicians Paul Butterfield, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Paul Rodgers and one of the most iconic legends in rock and roll Keith Richards!


Paul Butterfield: December 17, 1942
Chicago blues musician Paul Vaughn Butterfield grew up studying classical flute and then guitar, but ultimately found his passion with a Hohner harmonica. One of the best-known blues harp players, he notably played the instrument upside down and delivered intense tone using single notes. Butterfield had a prominent career in the ’60s and ’70s with the group the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The band, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 2015, paved the way for white blues players after the interracial band exposed the blues to a whole new generation of white music fans with their fusion of high-powered genre-bending electric blues rock. Butterfield also recorded with other legendary bluesmen such as John Mayall as well as his lifelong friend and mentor Muddy Waters.


Paul Rodgers: December 17, 1949
British blues musician Paul Bernard Rodgers was born in Middlesbrough, England. Best known as powerful bluesy lead vocalist for the bands Free and Bad Company, he is also a self-taught multi-instrumentalist. The song “All Right Now”, which Rodgers co-wrote, put his band Free on the map as one of the biggest British blues-rock groups of the early ’70s. Free sold more than 20 million albums internationally and “All Right Now” has become a classic rock staple. Rodgers went on to form Bad Company in 1973, the success of that band resulted in six multi-platinum albums. Rodgers has also had a successful solo career, earning a Grammy nomination for his 1993 album Muddy Water Blues: A Tribute to Muddy Waters. Rodgers has been cited as a major influence by musicians such as Joe Bonamassa, Freddie Mercury, John Mellencamp, the Black Crowes, and Guns and Roses.


Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson: December 18, 1917

A 50-year career as a jump blues, bebop, jazz, and R&B saxophonist, blues shouter, and composer. In the ‘40s he toured with Big Bill Broonzy and had two R&B chart-topping hits with “Old Maid Boogie” and “Kidney Stew Blues”. A young John Coltrane played in Vinson’s jazz band during the early ‘50s and by the ‘60s he began working with Johnny Otis Revue. A 1970 appearance with Johnny Otis at the Monterey Jazz festival gave Vinson renewed popularity and he continued doing session work with prolific blues and jazz musicians like Count Basie.


Keith Richards: December 18, 1943
Rolling Stones guitarist and founding member Keith Richards was born in Kent, England on December 18, 1943. He is considered the heart and soul of one of the world’s most popular rock bands and one of the greatest guitarist’s in history. Richards guitar playing is intense and distinctive, a signature style of Rolling Stones music is their use of guitar interplay with rhythm and lead. In addition to his guitar playing, Richards has also sung lead on over twenty-five Rolling Stones songs including “Thief in the Night” and “Happy”. The band first aspired to be the best blues band in London, Richards credits his and Mick’s shared interest in Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters as a catalyst for their musical partnership. A die-hard blues fan, Richard’s was heavily influenced by Jimmy Reed, Robert Johnson, Little Walters, and Howlin’ Wolf.


Notable mentions

Pee Wee Crayton: December 18, 1914 – American blues and R&B singer and guitarist whose instrumental “Blues After Hours” reached #1 on the Billboard R&B Chart in 1948. Crayton became one of the first bluesmen to play a Fender Stratocaster after he was given one by Leo Fender himself.

Lonnie “Guitar Jr.” Brooks: December 18, 1933 – ‘Vodoo’ Blues singer and guitarist whose style includes elements of Chicago blues, Louisiana blues, rhythm and blues, and swamp pop. Johnny Winter was featured on his 1986 album Wound Up Tight.

Professor Longhair: December 19, 1918 – New Orleans blues singer and pianist who influenced Fat’s Domino and Dr. John.

Harmonica Slim: December 21, 1934 – Blues harmonicist, singer, and songwriter who had a successful commercial recording career in the 1950’s, with the songs “You Better Believe it” and “Mary Helen”. He also toured alongside B.B. King, T-Bone Walker, and Ray Charles.

Peetie Wheatstraw: December 21, 1941 – St. Louis blues pianist and guitarist who was influential among the blues musicians of the 1930s.

Lil Green: December 22, 1919 – One of the biggest female R&B singers of the 1940’s


Devon Ebersold for Keeping the Blues Alive

Help us with our mission of Keeping the Blues Alive in schools! To learn more or donate to Keeping The Blues Alive, visit our website at

0 241