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©Retna / 'T-Model' Ford
© Retna / 'T-Model' Ford
Mississippi blues guitarist, singer 'T-Model' Ford dies

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- James Lewis Carter "T-Model" Ford, a hard-living blues singer who taught himself to play guitar when he was 58 years old and his fifth wife left him, died Tuesday at his home in Greenville, Miss.

His age was uncertain. Washington County Coroner Methel Johnson said the family told her Ford was born in 1924 and had already had his birthday this year, which would have made him 89. But a blues expert and longtime friend, Roger Stolle, said Ford didn't remember what year he was born and claimed to be 93.

Johnson told The Associated Press that Ford had been under hospice care and died of respiratory failure shortly after 10 a.m. Tuesday. She said he was at home with several relatives, including his wife, Estella Ford.

Bing: More on 'T-Model' Ford

Stolle, who owns a Clarksdale, Miss., store called Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art, accompanied Ford and other blues men when they toured Europe in 2009. He also traveled with Ford to gigs in New York.

"He was known as one of the last really authentic Mississippi blues men," Stolle told AP on Tuesday. "He has a story and could back it up."

When Ford was young, he served two years of a 10-year prison sentence for killing a man in self-defense, and he had scars on his ankles from serving on a prison chain gang, Stolle said.

Ford had six wives and 26 children, Stolle said. When Ford's fifth wife left him, she gave him a guitar as a parting gift.

"He stayed up all night drinking white whiskey," or moonshine, "and playing the guitar," Stolle said. "He kind of went on from there."

Ford started his blues career by playing at private parties and at juke joints in Greenville.

"He'd play late, then he'd spray himself with a bunch of mosquito spray and sleep in his van," Stolle said.

Stolle said Ford recorded seven albums with three labels, including three albums with Fat Possum Records in Oxford, Miss.

Clarksdale Mayor Bill Luckett, who co-owns the city's Ground Zero Blues Club with actor Morgan Freeman, said Ford was "a master of old-school blues" with an international following.

"His music would take you right back to the heart and soul of the Delta, back in the day," Luckett said.

Ford would show up for gigs early and often play longer than expected, even when he started experiencing heart problems in recent years, Stolle said. Ford would also swig Jack Daniels on stage and chat with the audience. Often, he'd pick out a happy-looking couple that included an attractive woman and would talk directly to the man.

"He'd say, 'You'd better put your stamp on her because if she flags my train, I'm going to let her ride," Stolle said. "He'd do it with a gleam in his eye and a smile. He could get away with a lot."

Jul 17, 2013 11:38AM
Saw him perform back in 1999, one of the best concerts I have ever seen. Made everybody get up dance like a Mississippi juke joint. Black Keys covered one of his songs on their second album so a lot of you might have heard the song but didn't know it was a T-Model Ford song. Check out Bad Man, his last album on Fat Possum Records, classic album. Now Junior Kimbrough, RL Burnside and T-Model Ford are all In Heaven Looking Down, if you know Burnside then you know what I mean. All of these men help save Rock n' Roll, a time when the word Alternative rock  just meant the lowest common denominator! Thank You Mr. Kimbrough, Mr. Burnside and Mr. T-Model Ford for making the kind of music I Like, loud, form the heart and uncompromising.
Jul 16, 2013 4:04PM

a true blues legend who probably died broke or close to it while all these stupid no talent Poop stars

and rappers make millions with fake crappy junk! I wouldn't even call it music! cause it's not!

RIP T-Model!

Jul 16, 2013 1:58PM
He was a Gritty Old Blues Guitarist  & Funny too !!  Loved him !! 
Jul 16, 2013 1:22PM
never heard of him--love old time-- gonna research
Jul 16, 2013 1:20PM

My partner & I  got to see him perform ,some years back, as a opening act for Squirrel Nut Zippers ,in Ohio.  He was So Great !!

Enjoyed his Album too !

Was hoping to see him Perform at Our Blues festival ,here in Canton .

RIP !!  Will Miss You !! 


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