Eddie Kirkland, the Gypsy of the Blues, Dies in a Florida Car Wreck

Only one week after playing a gig at the Stage in Miami, a true American original, the 88-year-old Alabama-bred bluesman Eddie Kirkland, died on Sunday morning in a car wreck.

Even at the age of 87, Kirkland never stopped touring and drove himself to every one of his gigs. He also never took the interstate. Only backroads. Unfortunately, that's what got him on February 27 at 8:30 a.m. when he flipped his car while making a U-turn in front of an oncoming Greyhound bus on U.S. Highway 98 in Crystal River, Florida, a town just north of Tampa. 

Known as the Gypsy of the Blues, Eddie Kirkland was not only a great bluesman, but a folk legend. And here are some little known facts, told by Mr. Kirkland himself: His mother had him when she was 10 in Jamaica and brought him to Georgia so he could be an American. He heard Charlie Patton play as a boy and decided that he wanted to play the blues guitar. He saw ghosts and his good friend John Lee Hooker used to pay him to walk him home, watch out for evil spirits along the way.

Adding to the myth, Eddie always wore a turban because of a gunshot wound on his head that never healed properly. He even played with Foghat for years, and till the day he died, still called them "Froghat."

Touring, Eddie would usually just show up at a gig, and the club had to provide him a "house band." That band would be forced to figure out how to follow his songs and unexpected changes all night.

And at that Miami gig just a week and a half ago, Kirkland was set up with a tall young drummer named Stefano Rotati. Excited to play with the legend, Rotati went up and asked him, "Are you ready to jam, Mr. Kirkland?"

Eddie looked straight up at the drummer with an annoyed look and replied, "Boy, I don't play no jazz."

No jazz indeed, Mr. Kirkland. Rest in peace.

-- Eric Garcia

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Miami New Times staff