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Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

Lipscomb, Mance (09 April 1895–30 January 1976), songster and guitarist, was born on a farm near Navasota, Texas, the son of Charlie Lipscomb, a former slave who became a professional fiddler, and Janie Pratt. Mance learned to play fiddle and guitar at an early age, learning mainly by ear because his musician father was seldom home to teach him. While still a preteen, Mance supposedly traveled with his father for a time, accompanying him on guitar. However, when Mance was around eleven years old, his father stopped coming home altogether, and the youngster went to work on the farm to help his mother....

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Odetta (31 Dec. 1930–2 Dec. 2008), folk and blues singer was born Odetta Holmes in Birmingham, Alabama, to Ruben Holmes, who died when she was young, and Flora Sanders. During the Great Migration of African Americans out of the South, at about age six, Odetta moved to Los Angeles with her mother and younger sister. Shortly afterward the girl discovered a budding love for music and singing. Like many black singers of her generation, Odetta’s musical talent was initially nurtured in church. At thirteen she started professional voice lessons, which were briefly interrupted when her mother could no longer afford them. She soon found a benefactor in puppeteer Harry Burnette, who paid for her to continue....

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Josh White Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115396).

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White, Josh (11 February 1915–05 September 1969), folk and blues vocalist and guitarist, was born Joshua Daniel White in Greenville, South Carolina, the son of Dennis White, a teamster and preacher, and Daisy Elizabeth Humphrey. The fifth of eight children born into a poor African-American family, White received little formal education. He later completed the sixth grade and may have attended high school for a time. As a child he was exposed to music through his mother, a leading singer in the church choir. At age seven he began to serve as “lead boy” (guide) for blind guitarists. His masters included John Henry Arnold, Blind Joe Taggart, and (possibly) ...