Blind Willie McTell (May 5, 1908–August 15, 1959), born William Samuel McTell, was an influential American blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist.
Blind Willie McTell was one of the giants of the blues, as a guitarist and as a singer and recording artist. Hardly any of his work as passed down to us on record is less than first rate, and this makes most any collection of his music worthwhile. A studious and highly skilled musician whose skills transcended the blues, he was equally adept at ragtime, spirituals, story-songs, hillbilly numbers, and popular tunes, excelling in all of these genres. He could read and write music in braille, which gave him an edge on many of his sighted contemporaries, and was also a brilliant improvisor on the guitar, as is evident from his records. Willie always gave an excellent account of himself, even in his final years of performing and recording.
This is an amazing tour of the world of Blind Willie McTell, circa 1940. Recorded in a hotel room in Atlanta, Georgia, with John Lomax, McTell plays some amazing guitar and talks about his life as a blind musician. In one incredible sequence he describes in voice and guitar the history of the blues. Equally incredible is Lomax's stunningly insensitive prompt to get McTell to play a "complaining song," one describing how whites mistreat the blacks, and McTell's sensitive evasions to do so.