Born on a farm in 1929, John grew up in the hills of Orange County, North Carolina. He began serious guitar-picking at the age of 14. His first teachers were his uncle and his cousin, both blues musicians in the Piedmont style, a distinctive approach to the blues found throughout the Carolinas and Virginia hill country east of the Appalachians.

Pretty soon, John was playing well enough to start picking up songs from records. He listened to Piedmont masters such as Blind Boy Fuller and to the great bluesmen from the Delta. The Delta left a deep mark on his playing. By his mid teens, John was playing professionally at house parties throughout the neighboring farm country. He added buck and tap dancing to his repertoire in his early twenties. Very quickly his dancing was as much in demand as his guitar playing and singing.

As John’s fame as a bluesman spread, he began touring, first in the South and then to festivals and concerts throughout the country. He has been featured in the Saturday Night and Sunday Morning Tour, has given concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York and Wolf Trap in Washington, D.C., and has toured abroad for USIA’s Arts America Program. He continues to perform and tour actively.

In 1988, his achievements as a master Piedmont bluesman earned him a National Heritage Fellowship, the highest cultural award of the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1994, John’s home state honored him with the North Carolina Heritage Award.


John Dee Holeman and Sunnyland Slim: Blues Legends Live (#11132)