One of the last of the generation that came from the Delta in the mid-40s and invented electric Chicago blues, John William Henderson got his nickname from a track he cut for Chicago label Chance in 1953. The Chicago slide guitarist spent years playing with blues legend Elmore James (who Homesick has long claimed as a "cousin" -- Elmore is said to have died on Homesick's couch while the latter frantically searched for the former's heart pills), roommate/cousin Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Big Walter, Big Bill Broonzy, Sunnyland Slim and Johnny Shines. High-pitched voice and stark slide guitar mark his southern roots authenticity, and were part of the famous Maxwell Street sound of a few decades ago.
Born in Somerville, Tennessee, his wailing moans hark back to the field hollers of the Mississippi delta. Self-taught on guitar, Homesick developed a wild slide guitar style which he developed playing at local dances and taverns by the age of 14. In his early years, he played with Yank Rachell, Sleepy John Estes, Sonny Boy Williamson, Hammie Nixon, Snooky Pryor, Muddy Waters, Honeyboy Edwards, Blind Boy Fuller (Homesick's mentor), Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Son House, and Big Joe Williams.
Homesick led a group called the Dusters during the early '30s, featuring at various times Pryor, Baby Face Leroy Foster, and Albert King on drums. Later that decade, James began his recording career, with sides for RCA and Vocalion. Homesick moved up to memphis during the 1940s, playing regularly with Big Walter Horton, and in the early '50s, he continued north, settling in Chicago.
There, he began sitting in with Memphis Minnie (Homesick's girlfriend for many years), Big Bill Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson, Tampa Red, Yank Rachell, Robert Lockwood, Jr., Roosevelt Sykes, Henry Townsend, Junio Wells, Sunnyland Slim, Little Walter Jacobs, and Elmore James. Homesick apparently bought Elmore his first guitar, and taught him how to play slide, and was a longtime member of Elmore's band (from 1955-1963), contributing to such classics as "Dust My Broom," "The Sky is Crying," and "Roll and Tumble."
Since then, he has recorded for Delmark, Prestige/Fantasy, Bluesvile, Appaloosa, Stanhope, Trix, Black and Blue and Earwig Records. Most recently, he released Words and Wisdom on Icehouse Records. Though over 90 years old, he remains active, performing both locally and at international festivals, including headlining gigs at the Chicago Blues Festival, San Francisco Blues Festival, and St. Louis Blues Festival. Homesick fans including Robert Plant and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) and members of the Black Crowes have come to Chicago to see their idol perform.
He died on December 13, 2006 in Springfield, Missouri. He is buried in Covington, Tennessee.
Got a correction? Click
Pages linking to this one include: