Hosea Hargrove, godfather of Austin blues, dies

Guitarist and singer Hosea Hargrove, an artist often referred to as the godfather of Austin blues, died early Monday morning. His daughter, Hosetter Irwin, confirmed the news with an emotional post on his Facebook page Monday night. “My Daddy, a.k.a. the blues man, has got his heavenly wings,” she wrote. He was 88.

Hosea Hargrove is inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame at the Austin Music Awards at the Austin Music Hall during the SXSW Music Festival. 2009 Jay Janner/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Hosea is the foundation of music itself for Austin. He was here 60 years ago playing in all these small clubs,” Eddie Stout, founder of the local blues label Dialtone Records, said on Wednesday morning. 

Hargrove grew up East of Austin near Smithville. He was a self-taught guitar man.

He made his own guitar from a cigar box at age 14 or so,” his daughter, Shirley Vincent said on Wednesday morning. 

“I didn’t take no kind of music lessons or nothing,” Hargrove told the Statesman in 2011. “Nobody could get used to my style. They couldn’t stop me from doin’ nothin’.”

“He didn’t listen to records,” Stout said. He’d hear songs on the radio or a jukebox, then go home and try to recreate them. “His chord changes were different from the record because he didn’t know exactly how it went. So what he made up is what he stuck with.”

Guitarist Hosea Hargrove of Dialtone Records on Feb. 8, 2011. Jay Janner/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Hargrove was a regular at Antone’s and other Austin blues clubs. He also toured extensively, opening for and sitting in with some of the top blues players in the country, including B.B. King. Stout also took him to Europe once. He never achieved widespread acclaim, but his local influence was significant.

Guitar legend Jimmie Vaughan was among the artists who studied Hargrove’s style.

Jimmie Vaughan used to come to Elgin and sit in with me when he was young, before his brother even played,” Hargrove said in 2011. 

Hargrove was inducted into the Austin Music Awards Hall of Fame in 2009.

He was serious about his craft, carrying his guitar with him everywhere. “(Music) played a big role in his life. It was all that he knew,” Vincent said. 

“Without people like Hosea nobody would be here. None of the stars that we know today,” Stout said. “They all relied on some kind of foundation and Hosea built that foundation.”

Author: Deborah Sengupta Stith

Deborah Sengupta Stith has been hanging out in dimly lit corners of the city soaking in the music scene for almost 20 years. Twitter: @deborific

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