'T-Model' Ford among last Miss. blues men
JACKSON, Miss. — James Lewis Carter “T-Model” Ford, a hard-living blues singer who taught himself to play guitar when he was 58 and his fifth wife left him, died Tuesday at his home in Greenville, Miss.
His age was uncertain, reported from 89 to 93, depending on the source.
Blues expert and longtime friend Roger Stolle called Ford “one of the last really authentic Mississippi blues men.”
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 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 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.”
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments â either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.