Willliam Samuel “Blind Willie” McTell (May 5, 1898 – August 19, 1959)
Willie McTell was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist that predominantly played Piedmont blues and ragtime. He wrote the song “Statesboro Blues.”
McTell was born at the turn of the 20th century in Thomson, Georgia. His mother brought him to Statesboro where he learned to play the six-string guitar. Eventually he would transition to the 12-string guitar which he would play exclusively for the remainder of his musical career. McTell left Statesboro after the death of his mother and traveled playing music from Atlanta to New York.
McTell wrote “Statesboro Blues” and recorded the song in 1928 with Victor Talking Machine Company.
Blues musician Taj Mahal recorded an adaptation of “Statesboro Blues” on his debut album in 1968. Then in 1971 The Allman Brothers Band released their version of “Statesboro Blues” on their album At Fillmore East. This version of the song has garnered several accolades including being named number nine on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “100 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
The song is still played on the radio worldwide and brings many visitors to Statesboro annually.
Blind Willie Statue
The Statesboro Blue Mile Committee commissioned the creation of a statue honoring McTell and graciously decided to place it at the entrance of the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2018.
Since it’s installation, numerous groups and individuals have stopped by the Visitor Center to see the statue. It’s always a bright spot in our day when we look out the window and catch someone taking a selfie or a picture of their loved ones with Willie.
McTell was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1981 and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1990.