Onestring Sam Wilson

onestring sam playing

 This is a re-publication from my old Myspace blog

"One String" Sam Wilson was a busker in Detroit who walked into Joe von Battle's Record Shop around 1956 to record the first and only commercial traditional solo one-string single, released as JVB 40 and currently available on Rural Blues 1, Document 5223 (1995), Detroit Blues Rarities, Vol. 4: Hastings Street Blues Opera, P-Vine Japan 5639 (2003) and probably others  :

  • I Need a Hundred Dollars (3'01)
  • My Baby Ooo (3'06)

The record became something of a collector's grail, but "One String" Sam kept busking (and working the chittlin circuit ?) for a while and then dropped out of sight. Years later, he was the surprise hit of the 1973 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival, playing a legendary 15 minutes official set and numerous backstage ones... And then disappeared again. Two tracks out of this set were issued on Schoolkids LP Please Mr. Foreman - Motor City Blues: Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival 1973 , reissued as as Schoolkids CD 2101 Please Mr. Foreman - Motor City Blues: Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival 1973 in 1995, Sequel NEX274 Motor City Blues/Please Mr. Foreman, P-VINE PCD-1978 Motor City Blues : Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival 1973, and with a different track selection as Total Energy LP & CD 3019 Motor City Blues in 1998, all of the CD editions more or less available. Optimists will join me in hoping other tracks from that set may still exist, as Total Energy was able to dig out some unrealeased tracks from other festival participants for that release. 

  • I need a $100 (2'38)
  • I got to go ('58) 

After writing that note, I received the following communication from Ted McCormick

"When I was in high school, (1968) a friend who played the sax asked to go over and sit in with him and Sam. I didnt know who he was, just thought he was some old shopworker.
Sam was well known in the chitlin circut but had never broken through the color barrier.
Sam was from the Detroit area but was staying with relatives in Flint, Michigan on Stewert. St. We rehearsed together for about two weeks and he disappeared.
The next time I saw him was after my tour in Vietnam, (5 years later). It was at the Ann Arbor Blues festival. Sam remembered me and took me back stage. I got to meet all the blues greats that were performing that weekend. I will never forget it. it was like Forest Gump. Sam stole the show in that festival (1973.) His mastery of tone was remarkable...he could hit every note imagineable on one string, (he used a shot glass.)
Sam made his guitar himself, which was basically a slab of wood cut into the shape of a guitar. Sam disappeared again after the 1973 festival. Sam liked his spirits which is what I ['d say] accounts for his absense.
Another good source of info would be contacting John Sinclair, another One String fan. John hosted a radio show in Ann Arbor for a number of years and is a record producer in the Ann Arbor area."