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OBITUARIES / PASSINGS / Sam Carr

Drummer known for Delta blues

September 25, 2009|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Sam Carr, 83, a drummer who was considered an anchor in the blues scene that continues to draw fans to the poverty-stricken Mississippi Delta region where the music form was born, died Monday of congestive heart failure at a nursing home in Clarksdale, Miss.

Carr had a reputation as one of the best blues drummers in the country and, at one time or another, had backed big names including Sonny Boy Williamson II and Buddy Guy.

Carr's father was 1930s blues guitarist and vocalist Robert Nighthawk, who made "Sweet Black Angel" famous. Early in his career, Carr often played with his father.

Carr was born Samuel Lee McCollum in 1926 near Marvell, Ark. His name was changed after he was adopted as a toddler by a Mississippi family with a farm near Dundee, according to a biography written by Scott Barretta, a blues professor at the University of Mississippi.

He moved back to Arkansas at 16 and collected money at the door of clubs where his father performed. He worked as a sharecropper before turning his full attention to the blues, moving to St. Louis and playing bass with harmonica player Tree Top Slim.

He returned to Mississippi in the early 1960s and formed the Jellyroll Kings, a three-piece Delta blues band featuring Big Jack Johnson on guitar and Frank Frost on harmonica and keyboard.

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