b. Edward Riley Boyd, 25 November 1914, Stovall, Mississippi, USA, d. 13 July 1994, Helsinki, Finland. Boyd was a half-brother of Memphis Slim and a cousin of Muddy Waters. He spent his early years on Stovall’s Plantation but ran away after a dispute with an overseer. Self-taught on guitar and piano, he worked around the south during the 30s, as both ‘Little Eddie’ and ‘Ernie’ Boyd, from a base in Memphis, before settling in Chicago where he worked in a steel-mill. He was active in music, performing with Waters, Johnny Shines and John Lee ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson before he had his first big hit under his own name with ‘Five Long Years’, on the Job label in 1952. He recorded extensively for Chess Records, having successes with ‘24 Hours’ and ‘3rd Degree’. He journeyed to Europe during the ‘Blues Boom’ of the 60s and, considering himself too assertive to live comfortably in the USA, took up residence first in Paris and later in Finland. During this period he appeared with artists as diverse as Buddy Guy and John Mayall and recorded in England, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, France and Finland. His 1967 album on Decca Records, produced by Mike Vernon, features some of the cream of the British blues movement; Mayall, Peter Green, John McVie, Tony McPhee and Aynsley Dunbar. His piano-playing was steadily functional rather than spectacular and his main strength was his ability to put together lyrics that were pithy and acidic. ‘Five Long Years’ has become a blues standard and features in the repertoires of many singers including Waters and B.B. King.
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