(born Major Merriweather)
1905 - February 23, 1953
Big Maceo was one of the most influential
blues piano players of the 1940s. His heavy-handed style had an impact on practically
every post-World War II blues pianist of note, especially Otis
Spann, Johnny Jones and Eddie Boyd. With a hazy voice and a piano style built on heavy
bass notes, Maceo, often with Tampa Red on guitar, recorded a
number of classic Chicago piano numbers from 1941 to 1946. His biggest hit, "Worried
Life Blues," has become a standard in the blues piano catalogue and remains Maceo's
Big Maceo was born in 1905 in Atlanta, by most accounts, where he taught himself how to play piano. When he was around twenty he moved with his family in Detroit. Shortly after his arrival he began playing house-rent parties and clubs. In 1941, a desire to record led Maceo to settle in Chicago. There he met the popular blues guitarist Tampa Red. They soon became best friends and performing partners. Red introduced Big Maceo to producer Lester Melrose of Bluebird Records who signed him to a recording contract. Big Maceo's first record was "Worried Life Blues," which, in 1941, promptly became a blues hit and made him a star in Chicago blues circles. Other classics such as "Chicago Breakdown," "Texas Stomp," and "Detroit Jump" followed.
Maceo's piano style evolved from players like Leroy Carr, Roosevelt Sykes, and Josh Altheimer, as well as from the rolling, boogie-woogie sounds of Meade "Lux" Lewis and Albert Ammons. Big Maceo cut some thirty sides, in all, most of them exceptional, before his career was cut short in 1946 by a stroke. Big Maceo died in 1953.