(Feb. 21, 1903-Oct. 7, 1962). Born in Syracuse, South Carolina, Francis (Scrapper) Blackwell arrived in Indianapolis at age three and was performing guitar professionally by his teens. In 1928, he began recording with pianist Leroy Carr on Vocalion Records. During the next seven years, the duo’s record sales totaled over a million copies, establishing them as pioneers in the newly emerging urban blues style.

Blackwell also recorded with Bertha Hill, Georgia Tom Dorsey, Teddy Moss, Robinson’s Knights of Rest, and other blues stars of the 1930s, his unique single-string accompaniment style influenced many guitarists including Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Johnny Shines, and T-Bone Walker.

After Carr’s death in 1935, Blackwell played infrequently around Indianapolis until the late 1950s when he was rediscovered by Indianapolis Jazz Club members, and his old recordings were re-released along with new albums on the 77 and Bluesville labels. In October 1962, two weeks before a scheduled recording session, he was found in the alley behind a house at 527 West 17th Street suffering a gunshot wound. He died the following day.

Revised February 2021

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