Eddie Cusic

Blues Guitarist and Singer, Leland

Eddie Cusic was born January 4, 1926, in the Wilmot community south of Leland, Mississippi. He grew up farming with his family and was first inspired to play the blues from hearing men play at suppers and other get-togethers in his community. Like many Delta musicians of his generation, his first attempts to play were done on a diddly-bow, a one-string instrument consisting of a piece of baling wire attached to a wall and played with a knife or bottleneck. He eventually moved up to a Sears Roebuck guitar and began playing with other local musicians.

In the early 1950s, Cusic formed a group called the Rhythm Aces. It was a three-piece band featuring two guitars and a drummer. The group they played the clubs in Greenville, Leland, and in juke joints throughout the Delta. One of the members of the group was future blues legend “Little” Milton Campbell. A native of Greenville, Campbell has long attested to the early influence Cusic had on his guitar playing.

In the 1960s Cusic frequently teamed up with fellow Leland guitarist James “Son” Thomas, playing with him at picnics and other social events throughout the state. However, despite the regular gigs, Cusic was still struggling to provide for his family. It was during this time period that he took a job at a local quarry and for the most part stopped performing.

After retiring from the quarry in 1989, Cusic returned to active performing. While he had played in groups and on electric guitar in the past, Cusic came back to the music as a solo acoustic performer. He has been a mainstay at the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival in Greenville for many years and more recently has been a featured performer at the Sunflower River Blues Festival in Clarksdale. He has also begun traveling out of state to perform, including at the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife and the Chicago Blues Festival and at festivals in the Pacific Northwest. Cusic has also served as a master artist in the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Folk Art Apprenticeship program, working with Casey Ruth, a young guitarist from Greenville.

Due to his long period of inactivity, Cusic has not recorded very often. His first feature recording was not done until late 1997. Producer Matthew Block recorded Cusic in Leland in December of that year. The CD, I Want to Boogie, was released by Hightone Records in 1998 and has received favorable reviews. The recording features songs Cusic has learned and performed from throughout his career, including traditional Delta blues like “Catfish Blues” as well as songs by Willy Dixon, Jimmy Reed, and others.

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