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"Huddie William Ledbetter", better known as "Leadbelly" (January 20, 1889 although this is debatable; see below – December 6, 1949), was an American folk and blues musician, notable for his clear and forceful singing, his virtuosity on the twelve string guitar, and the rich songbook of folk standards he introduced.

Although his most commonly-played instrument was the twelve string, he could also play the piano, mandolin, harmonica, violin, concertina, and accordion. In some of his recordings, such as in one of his versions of the folk ballad "John Hardy," he performs on the accordion instead of the guitar.


Leadbelly's date of birth is a matter of debate. The earliest year given is 1885, although other sources state either 1888 or 1889. It is also debated on what day he was born. The most common date given is January 21, but other sources suggest he was born on January 20 or 29. In any case, Leadbelly was born to Wesley and Sally Ledbetter as Huddie William Ledbetter in a plantation near Mooringsport, Louisiana, but the family moved to nearby Leigh, Texas when he was five. It was there he received his first instrument, an accordion from his uncle, and by his earl...

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