Before Tom Petty picked up a 12-string guitar, there was Roger McGuinn, and before Roger, Pete Seeger played 12-string, and inspiring Pete, there was Huddie (pronounced "Hyoodie") Ledbetter, also known as Lead Belly or Leadbelly, the "King of the 12-String."
Leadbelly was discovered by John and Alan Lomax, who had set out in the 1930's to record authentic folk music, wherever they could find it. The first sessions with Leadbelly took place at Angola Prison, in Louisiana.
Goodnight Irene is one of many traditional folk songs adapted and brought to the mainstream by Leadbelly. It has since been covered by too many artists to name, frequently covering up some of the darker lyrics.
George Harrison once said, "if there was no Lead Belly, there would have been no Lonnie Donegan; no Lonnie Donegan, no Beatles. Therefore no Lead Belly, no Beatles."
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