Blind Blake was from the 30s to the 60s the singer and leader of the house band at the Royal Victoria Hotel in Nassau, Bahamas. His music was a strange mix of old island classics, more recent calypso compositions and american ballads. Alphonso Blake Higgs, commonly known as ‘Blind Blake’, was born at Matthew Town, Inagua, Bahamas, in 1915. He was adept at string instruments – ukulele, banjo, tenor banjo, six-string guitar – and also played the piano. He lost his eyesight at the age of sixteen and kept pursuing the goal of a career in music and a unique style, a blend of folksong, calypso and early jazz. His recognition grew from 1935 when he recorded for Philco Radio some of his own songs on the political and social life of The Bahamas. His most popular song ‘Love, Love Alone’ (“It was Love, Love alone, Cause King Edward to Leave The Throne”) was based on the love affair of King Edward VIII with Wallis Simpson. He was forbidden to play the song upon the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to the Colony but was invited to play the song by the Duke at Government House where he received a standing ovation by the Duke and his party. Blind Blake wrote about sixty Goombay songs starting in the 30s including ‘Run Come See Jerusalem’, based on the effects of the 1929 Hurricane, ‘Jones (Oh Jones)’ and ‘J. P. Morgan’. The traditional song ‘Peas and Rice’, nearly a Bahaman National Anthem, originated during the First World War when the scarcity of imported cooking fats forced the substitution of local coconut oil. And one of the oldest Bahamian song is the tragi-comic ballad ‘John B. Sail’ (later adapted and performed by many artists, notoriously The Beach Boys as ‘Sloop John B.’ on their ‘Pet Sounds’ album). The ‘John B.’ was an old sponger boat whose crew were in the habit of getting merry whenever they reached port. Blake performed for many Heads of State and royalty, such as President John F. Kennedy and PM Harold Macmillan. He performed for tourists at the Royal Victoria Hotel, Dirty Dicks, Blackbeard’s and many other Bahaman hotels and clubs. He gave performances in major american cities. Over the years, many visiting celebrities, such as Mahalia Jackson, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington praised Blind Blake for his Bahamian style and his originality. In the 70s and early 80s, Blind Blake’s band was employed by the Ministry of Tourism to play at the Nassau International Airport, giving a musical welcome to arriving visitors. He died in 1985.

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