Unbound. Chromogenic color photograph of Big Bill Broonzy playing the guitar. Measuring approximately 4½" x 3" mounted (and removable) in a card folder. Undated but probably early 1950s. On the upper part of the folder, the blues legend has written an Inscription: "to Gladys Heath a very good friend. Big Bill Broonzy." Broonzy apparently closed the folder before the ink was dry and there are a few ink offsets on the image, which is otherwise fine and bright, but these must have adhered to the folder, scrapping away some of the first level of the paper, effacing the inscription, although it is still legible.
It is difficult to overstate the importance and influence of Broonzy on American blues and the subsequent worldwide proliferation of rock music, but we'll try. Born one of 17 children in Mississippi, after serving in Europe in WWI, Broonzy moved to Chicago in the 1920s, where he played music, filling in for one gig after the death of Robert Johnson. He continued to record and perform throughout the 1930s and 1940s, quietly amassing a body of work. Finally, thanks to the folk music revival, he achieved real success in the early 1950s, publishing his autobiography *Big Bill Blues* in 1955. He died of throat cancer in 1958.
He was inducted into the inaugural class of the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980. He was an acknowledged influence on Muddy Waters, Ray Davies, John Renbourn, Rory Gallagher of Oasis, and Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones. He was one of the major influences on both Eric Clapton and Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead (who upon hearing Broonzy, traded in his accordion for a guitar!), and innumerable others.
Accompanying the portrait of Broonzy are three other photos (approximately 3½" x 3½" black and white gelatin silver) of young black and white children playing together—two dated in 1947, the other dated in 1950 of black and white children (and three white teachers or chaperones) from the Lawndale Nursery School standing in front of a bus at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, presumably on a class trip. We do not know what relationship they have to the Broonzy portrait but they come together and probably bear some relation.
We did find another copy of this image online, thus despite it looking like a snapshot, could have been ordered by Broonzy to give as presents. We couldn't determine the recipient, perhaps a Chicago neighbor or friend, the presence of the images of the children presumably supporting that notion. A very nice image of a bluesman of paramount importance, taken late in life during the brief period when he was enjoying long-deserved commercial success.