Henry “Mule” Townsend
Born October 7, 1909, Shelby, Mississippi
Died: September 24, 2006
Photo Credit: David Horwitz – DavidHorwitzBluesImages@msn.com
Influenced by Roosevelt Sykes and Lonnie Johnson, Henry Townsend was a commanding musician, adept on both piano and guitar. During the ’20s and ’30s, Townsend was one of the musicians that helped make St. Louis one of the blues centers of America. Townsend moved to St. Louis in the early 1920’s and recorded on the Columbia label and later for Paramount. During the ’30s, Townsend was a popular session musician, performing with many of the era’s most popular artists. By the late ’30s, he had cut several tracks for Bluebird. Those were among the last recordings he ever made as a leader. During the ’40s and ’50s, Townsend continued to perform and record as a session musician. Toward the end of the 1960s, Townsend became a staple on the blues and folk festivals in America. He cut a number of albums for Adelphi and he played shows throughout America. Townsend had become an elder statesman of St. Louis blues by the early 1980s. That’s the Way I Do It, a documentary about Townsend, appeared on public television in 1984. During the late ’80s, Townsend was nearly retired, but he continued to play the occasional concert until his death in 2006.