World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Roosevelt Sykes

Article Id: WHEBN0000523339
Reproduction Date:

Title: Roosevelt Sykes  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Driving Wheel, I Wonder (1944 song), Piano blues, United Records, Sweet Home Chicago
Collection: 1906 Births, 1983 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Singers, 20Th-Century Pianists, African-American Musicians, American Blues Musicians, American Blues Pianists, American Blues Singers, Bluebird Records Artists, Blues Hall of Fame Inductees, Boogie-Woogie Pianists, Deaths from Myocardial Infarction, Delmark Records Artists, Gennett Records Artists, Imperial Records Artists, Kent Records Artists, Musicians from Arkansas, Paramount Records Artists, People from Phillips County, Arkansas, St. Louis Blues Musicians
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Roosevelt Sykes

Roosevelt Sykes
Background information
Also known as The Honeydripper
Born (1906-01-31)January 31, 1906
Elmar, Arkansas, United States
Died July 17, 1983(1983-07-17) (aged 77)
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Genres Blues, boogie-woogie
Occupation(s) Pianist, singer
Instruments Piano
Years active 1920s–1983
Labels Various

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.[1]


  • Career 1
  • Legacy 2
  • Selected discography 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


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. Like many bluesmen of his time, he travelled around playing to all-male audiences in sawmill, turpentine and levee camps along the Mississippi River, gathering a repertoire of raw, sexually explicit material. His wanderings eventually brought him to St. Louis, Missouri, where he met St. Louis Jimmy Oden.,[2] author of the blues standard "Goin' Down Slow".

In 1929 he was spotted by a talent scout and sent to New York City to record for Okeh Records.[3] His first release was "'44' Blues" which became a blues standard and his trademark.[3] 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.[3] In 1943, he signed with Bluebird Records and recorded with The Honeydrippers.[4] Sykes and Oden continued their musical friendship well into the 60s.

In Chicago, Sykes began to display an increasing urbanity in his lyric-writing, using an eight-bar blues pop gospel structure instead of the traditional twelve-bar blues. However, despite the growing urbanity of his outlook, he gradually became less competitive in the post-World War II music scene. After his RCA Victor contract expired, he continued to record for smaller labels, such as United, until his opportunities ran out in the mid-1950s.[3]

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.[5] He lived out his final years in New Orleans, where he died from a heart attack[6] on July 17, 1983.[1]


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".[1]

He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1999[7] and the Gennett Records Walk of Fame in 2011.

Selected discography

  • The Return of Roosevelt Sykes (Bluesville, 1960)
  • The Honeydripper (Bluesville, 1961)
  • Piano Blues (Folkways, 1966)
  • Blues Roots/Chicago – The 1930's (Folkways, 1967)
  • The Country Blues Piano Ace 1929–1932 (Yazoo, 1972)
  • Feel Like Blowing My Horn (Delmark, 1973)
  • Blues by Roosevelt "The Honeydripper" Sykes (Smithsonian Folkways, 1995)


  1. ^ a b c "Phil Brodie Band Tribute Page – Roosevelt Sykes". Retrieved 2006-11-26. 
  2. ^ "Roosevelt Sykes". Retrieved November 19, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues – From  
  4. ^ "Roosevelt Sykes could play those 88's". African American Registry. Archived from the original on October 27, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-26. 
  5. ^ Shaw, Arnold (1978). Honkers and Shouters. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. pp. 14–17.  
  6. ^ "The Dead Rock Stars Club - The 1980s". Retrieved January 18, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Blues Hall of Fame Inductees – 1999". Blues Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2006-11-26. 

External links

  • Sykes' CD discography at Smithsonian Folkways
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.