At the time that Son House was invited to record in April 1965 with Columbia and producer John Hammond, he had been prepared for this for almost a year by Al Wilson’s enthusiasm and skills and by medication to help him with this hand tremor and alcoholism. Before this, he had already had some stage performance, for instance at the Gaslight Café on January 3rd. The Gaslight café was a countercultural club, founded in 1958, which would become the meeting place of all kind of artists, and which had the pleasure to enjoy a.o. Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.
As said, he was completely unaware of the blues revival that was going on when he was discovered and of the interest that he generated. In 1963 Folkways had published (Samuel Chambers), together with some tracks of J.D. Short, a number of recordings done by A. Lomax in 1941-42. The comments on the publication made no reference as to the question whether Son House would still be alive. It mentions only that some blues artists in the on-going blues revival had meanwhile been discovered.
The 1965 recordings (The Legendary Son House, Father of the Folk blues) (re-issued on 2-CD by Sony in 1992 as “Father of the Delta Blues : The complete 1965-recordings”) are simply a must-have in any blues collection. Tough some argue that Son House’s voice is not that strong as in 1930 or 1941-42, this recording testifies of the unique position of the artist. It is sheer emotion. When you listen to him, his voice cuts into you like a knife, going to the bottom of your soul. Very few artists can do this !
Without any doubt, this 1965 recording is one of the highlights of the blues revival in the 60ties.
This was the start of a career that would last until 1970. Son House visited some of the Newport Folk festivals, performed at colleges and theatres. He also went to tour Europe (a.o. Montreux Jazz Festival). There aren’t too many recordings available, but they are very worthwhile listening to, though one has sometimes the impression, when he was doing his monologues that the devil of booze was at the lurk. In 1969, before leaving for a tour in Europe, he recorded in his flat, together with his wife, a very intimate set of songs.
Everywhere were he went, he was besieged by young fans asking him about the old blues players he know in the twenties and thirties.
In the winter of 1969-1970 he passed out drunk in a snow bank, which (according to E. Comara and Waterman) made him miss what was perhaps would have been the biggest gig in his life : Eric Clapton and Delaney had planned that he would open for them at the Fillmore East. Note that it was also at the Fillmore that B.B. King saw his career rocketed in the sky with the white audience.
Between 1970 and 1976 he played seldom plagued with a bad health condition. In 1976, he moved to Detroit where relative helped him further, suffering from both Alzheimer and Parkinson’s disease. Cub Koba writes on Allmusic : “He lived quietly in Detroit, MI, for another 12 years, passing away on October 19, 1988. His induction into the Blues Foundation’s Hall of Fame in 1980 was no less than his due. Son House was the blues.”.
(picture : http://www.mojohand.com/digi/tanhouse.htm)