T-Model Ford is sweet tea spiked with moonshine -- something simple and sweet, but with a hell of a kick. In the late 1990s, Fat Possum Records discovered him and put out his first album, Pee-Wee Get Your Gun. Since then, he's recorded five more albums, including his latest, I'm a Ladies' Man, which is being hailed by some critics as his best yet. And he's already recorded an album that Alive Naturalsound Records will release early next year.
He may look sweet and old, but he'll rip through the blues like nobody's business -- and he'll do it till dawn unless you stop him. T-Model Ford can probably drink most everyone under the table and keep on playing, taking shots of Jack Daniel's between songs. Despite his advanced age, he's known to play for up to eight hours at a time.
Fresh off a date at the prestigious All Tomorrow's Parties festival, T-Model Ford roars into town with his particular blend of sparse, stomp-inducing Delta blues for a show at 3 Kings Tavern tomorrow night before heading off to the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival on Sunday. In advance of his pair of Colorado gigs, we pulled together a list of five things you should know about this Delta bluesman.
1). No one knows his real age -- not even him.
T-Model Ford thinks he might be ninety. But in 2008, NPR said he's around eighty. The official record puts his birth somewhere between the years of 1921 and 1925. According to his MySpace page, "T-Model's 80-something years old...his Mississippi Driver's License says he's 84, his US Passport says he's 87, and he says he's 88...so you decide." He's said he thinks he'll live to 110. And while he had a minor stroke earlier this year, we have no doubt he'll make it as long he's playing the blues.
2) He was already a senior citizen when he started playing.
He began learning guitar somewhere around the time he was 58 years old, building on his recollection of other greats like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Robert Johnson. He spent seventeen years sharpening his skills in juke joints and playing the sidewalk of Nelson Street in Greensville, Mississippi. He's now considered a Delta blues legend and has influenced a generation of artists.
3). He's been to jail more times than he can count.
His troubles with the law started when he was charged with murder and sentenced to ten years on a chain gang. He got out after two years. He's said, "I could really stomp some ass back then, stomp it good. I was a sure enough dangerous man." According to his Fat Possum Records bio, when asked how many times he's gone to jail, he responded, "Every Saturday night there for awhile."
4). His latest album was recorded in one day with no overdubs.
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Ford was raised out of obscurity when Fat Possum Records issued his first album, Pee-Wee Get My Gun, in 1997. His latest album, The Ladies' Man, released earlier this year on Alive Natural Sound Records, was recorded live in one session with no overdubs -- not bad for a man closing in on the century mark.
5). He's been married five times and allegedly has 26 kids.
Embodying the title of his latest album, by his own admission (see clips above), T-Model Ford has been hitched five times and is said to have fathered 26 children -- and possibly more. "They say I'm the father of 26 living children. They say -- and I ain't going to say I ain't." A ladies' man, indeed.