Bishop Perry Tillis Too Close LPPerry Tillis was born July 29, 1919, in Elba , Alabama, and began playing his brand of rambling blues at a very early age. He continued playing the blues and singing gospel, despite going blind, up until his death on November 3, 2004. In the '40s Tillis played the Chicago blues circuit alongside all-time greats likes Muddy Waters and Furry Lewis. However, when a revelation convinced him it was the devil's music, he moved back home and began preaching the gospel. In 1972 Swedish music archivist Begnt Olsson tracked down Tillis at his church in Samson , Alabama, and recorded these tracks over three sessions. He was frail and old when Olsson found him, but he played the guitar, both electric and acoustic, with a mosquito-like fragility that is truly transcendent. In an age when major pre-war blues players were being rediscovered, unknown geniuses like Tillis were still playing a style of blues (gospel) that touched upon greatness and kept alive the traditions that were inspiring the likes of The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. This CD has a hallucinatory, Velvet Underground-like groove that meanders through each hymn. The slide guitar playing is beautiful and Tillis' voice speaks of a knowledge all but lost in the 21st Century. A wonderful debut release from an unknown blues virtuoso who is missed.



Perry Tillis was born on July 29th, 1919 in Elba, Alabama. Swedish blues researcher Bengt Olson met Perry Tillis in 1972 way out in the country outside of the small town of Elba in southeast Alabama. Blind from birth Perry spent his youth learning from older bluesmen and as a young man he traveled throughout the South performing on street corners. He met many musicians in his wanderings but Blind Willie Johnson, whose style Tillis’ resembles, and Muddy Waters, who were just starting out in Clarksdale at the time, made a deep impression on him.


He reflected on his past to Bengt, “If you’re a musician it’s hard to escape dreamy-eyed women and strong liquor. When I saw what my drinkin’ and good timin’ was doing to my family. I decided to put a stop to it. My sinful life just tore my family to pieces, and I hated to see that, ‘cause I loved my kids. With God’s help I made it.” Perry became a preacher and stopped playing the blues but has a wonderful repertoire of deeply personal and traditional religious songs. Rev. Perry Tillis passed away on November 3rd, 2004.


More info:

A Conversation with Bishop Perry Tillis

Article by Constance Cooper:

Video: Live performance from 1995 at the Savior Lord Jesus Pentecostal Church in Samson, Alabama. video shot by Steve Grauberger.

Video: Bishop Perry Tillis - "I Found A Solid Rock"

Video: Bishop Perry Tillis- Too Close


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