January 25th, 2013
04:11 PM ET

Precious loss in the world of blues

By Tommy Andres, CNN

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(CNN) – Precious Bryant rode a bus for the first time when she was 41 years old, and boarded her first plane just a few months later.

It was a brief glimpse of worldliness for a woman who spent nearly her entire life living with her son in a trailer in Talbot County, Georgia.

Precious grew up surrounded by music, singing in the church choir and learning guitar from her uncle, famed blues musician George Henry Bussey. It wasn't until folklorist and field recorder George Mitchell knocked on her door that anyone outside her town heard her play.

Mitchell canvassed the South in the 1960s and 70s recording unknown blues musicians. He's the man credited with discovering blues legend R.L. Burnside. One of his other prize finds was Precious Bryant.

[1:43] "The black people in the South then lived in some pretty bad shacks, so I went up and down the highway asking about where her house was and I knocked on the door. That's how I found Precious."

In 1967 Mitchell recorded Precious and tried to coax her to play a concert, but she refused to leave home.

It wasn't until her husband passed away more than a decade later that she finally packed up her guitar and hit the road. She headed to Atlanta for a show in 1984.

[3:24] "Here's this country woman, and she'd never ridden a bus before. And she took a bus to Atlanta to the National Down Home Blues Festival and was a hit there."

She lived a small humble life up until her death on January 15, but her impact on the world of blues will live on for generations. Mitchell says Precious was the last bastion of an old blues tradition dubbed lower Chattahoochee style

[5:45] "Most of the world doesn't know it, but she was the last of the really old time traditional blues musicians, and so now there are none."

Precious Bryant was 71.

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