Born: May 20, 1931, Bentonia, Mississippi
Died: March 24, 2014
Photo credit: Bill Steber – www.steberphoto.com
Bud Spires grew up near Bentonia, Mississippi, and played blues harp with Jack Owens. Owens groomed Spires as his harmonica player. Spires is the son of Chicago bluesman Arthur “Big Boy” Spires. He is nearly blind and learned to play the chromatic harmonica after Owens bought him one in the early 1960s. In the book The Land Where the Blues Began, Alan Lomax describes Spires: “Bud was a one-man, red-hot singing orchestra, accompanying himself on the harmonica, putting rough, bluesy chords after some lines and squealed comments to underscore the sexiest images. Sometimes his instrument almost disappeared in his mouth as he both blew and sucked notes out of its metal reeds.” Bud also appeared, along with Jack Owens, in Lomax’s PBS music series “American Patchwork”. Spires’ real heroes were Muddy Waters and Little Walter. Although Owens and Spires were invited to perform at festivals around the country, they preferred to play mostly for their own community in the Bentonia area.