Lonnie Pitchford
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Lonnie Pitchford
Written by Jim O'Neal

Mississippi blues guitarist Lonnie Lee Pitchford, who had carried on the legacies of blues legends Robert Johnson and Elmore James, died of complications from HIV on Nov. 8 at his home in Lexington, Mississippi. He was 43. Pitchford had toured Europe and Australia and had played American venues such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Chicago Blues Festival, the Delta Blues Museum, and the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife.

Pitchford was noted for his performances on his homemade one-string "diddley bows" as well as for his work on acoustic and electric guitar. In 1996 his slide guitar playing was featured on one track of a John Cougar Mellencamp CD.

Pitchford's only full CD, All Around Man, was released by Rooster Blues Records in 1994. That CD included songs he had learned from Robert Johnson's protege Robert Jr. Lockwood, as well as a previously unrecorded track that Lonnie's mother-in-law had learned from her friend, the late slide guitar master Elmore James. Pitchford will be buried on Nov. 14 at the same cemetery where James was laid to rest in 1963, the Newport Community Cemetery near Ebenezer, Mississippi. Services will be held at 11:30 a.m. at the Newport M.B. Church.

During the '70s and early '80s, Pitchford lived in Kansas City, Lexington, Chicago, and Kalamazoo, Michigan. He had spent the last several years in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where he performed and recorded, or around his hometown of Lexington. He often worked as a carpenter, and played in gospel groups as well as blues bands. He had been working on a second album for Rooster Blues in late 1997 before his illness sidelined him. A few months before his death he played Elmore James' guitar on a brief session produced by Pat LeBlanc, administrator of the Elmore James estate.

For more information about Lonnie Pitchford go to Delta Musicians