Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
KIRKLAND, Eddie(b 16 August 1923, Dothan AL; d 27 February 2011, Tampa FL following an auto accident) Blues singer and guitarist who was constantly on the road, often wore turbans and big bandanas, and liked to tell tall tales (he said he was born in Kingston, Jamaica): he was known as the Gypsy of the Blues, 'Little' Eddie Kirkland, Eddie Kirk, Eddie "Blues Man" Kirkland.
He said that he joined a travelling medicine show when he was 12, dancing and playing harmonica (Sheldon Harris's Blues Who's Who says that Kirkland was reporting his year of birth as 1928, and that it was the Sugar Girls Medicine Show in the early 1940s). He moved to Detroit in the 1940s and worked on a Ford assembly line; he met John Lee Hooker there and they worked together at house parties and recorded together on RPM '52.
He said he killed a man in self-defence in the 1950s and spent three years in prison, including time on a chain gang. He was shot twice and survived, once in the head, which cost him the sight in one eye and hearing in one ear. He had settled in Macon Georgia by 1962. According to an obit he was Otis Redding's bandleader for several years (Sheldon says he toured briefly with Redding in '64). He sometimes worked outside music but he toured 40 weeks a year most of his life and never gave up a tendency to showmanship: during a performance with the British band Foghat in 1977 (one of "Don Kirschner's Rock Concerts" TV series) he played the guitar lying on the floor, then did a backwards somersault to stand up, never missing a beat. He performed on two of his own songs on Foghat's album Last Train Home, released in 2010.
He recorded sporadically, on King in the mid-'50s and again '64; his own best-known recording was "The Hawg", parts one and two, released on Volt '65, infectious rhythmically, with passionate guitar and lots on moaning and grunting. He recorded for Trix in Macon '70-1 (collected on 2-disc The Complete Trix Recordings on 32 Jazz Records '99.) Later there were more albums: It's the Blues man! (out of print, unknown label), Have Mercy '93 on Evidence, live Some Like It Raw '94 on Deluge, Where You Get Your Sugar '95 on MS Distribution, Movin' On '99 on JSP, 2-disc Democrat Blues 2004 on Blue Suit, and Booty Blues 2006 on CDBY.
His hard times included the abduction and murder of a 15-year-old niece in 1998, who had been raised by Kirkland and his wife as their own. He knew what the blues was about. He was driving between gigs when he accidentally pulled out in front of a Greyhound bus.