George Higgs

Return to Piedmont Blues Players

George HiggsIf you could wrap Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee into one package, it would probably look like George Higgs. Not only does Higgs play blues on the guitar, but he also is an artist on the harmonica. While his songs are in the Piedmont Blues tradition, they have the melancholy flavor of Mississippi Delta blues. Born in 1930 on a farm near Tarboro, he learned the skills of farming from his father and later learned carpentry. As a child, he would listen to his father play spirituals, and "Cryin' Holy Unto the Lord" on his father's harp led him to begin thinking of following his father's model.

He bought his own guitar when he was twelve, with his father's help, and he started playing at local houseparties. During the early 1950s he and his friends would compete with each other on the streets of downtown Tarboro, drawing crowds who would come to listen to them play.

Unlike traditional blues musicians like Blind Boy Fuller and Sonny Terry, Higgs has rarely traveled outside of his community. He has remained in Tarboro, and he and his wife Bettye have raised six children.

Higgs has passed along his love of music, whether it's "blowing the harp" or picking his guitar strings. As a boy, he regularly listened to the Grand Ole Opry and Peg Leg Sam during sale days at the Rocky Mount tobacco market. Not only has he played harp and guitar, but he also played fiddle, and he joined the Friendly Five Gospel Quartet for a session of guitar and gospel music. He has performed with the North Carolina Black Folk Heritage Tour and in 1992 received the North Carolina Folklore Society's Brown-Hudson award.

As other blues musicians have done, Higgs has put his own voice into his music. His songs reflect his personal experience and unique personality. "For as long as I'm alive, I think I'll always have this urge for this old music," he says. "I'm gonna try to carry it just as long as I'm able, because it's like history to me."