One of the premier American folksingers (1888-1949), he spent years in and out of jail for murder and attempted murder, recorded ‘Goodnight, Irene,’ ‘Boll Weevil,’ ‘The Midnight Special,’ and others. ALS signed “Huddie Ledbetter,” one page, 6 x 9.5, Royal Hotel letterhead, January 14, 1949. Letter to his manager, Marjorie Fairbanks. In full (spelling and grammar retained): “Just a few lines iom sending this contrack send it right Back and tell me what to do I can do if you say so and what you think it up I got a doctor that is fixing me up iom walking near Perfect now iom sure glad to martha [his wife] is all right austin call me up He is all right Love to the Boys for me and Martha Looking for a Letter right Back so long for now.” In fine condition, with staple holes and a rust mark to the upper left corner.
Marjorie Fairbanks and her son Austen had taken over Lead Belly's professional management in 1948 after a falling out between him and the famous folklorist John Lomax, who had been acting as his manager. By the time he wrote this letter, Ledbetter was already cognizant that he was losing control of his muscles, though he lacked an accurate diagnosis. He had recently been released from the hospital after finding himself unable to walk. He is clearly optimistic about his recovery in this letter, and according to Charles K. Wolfe’s The Life and Legend of Leadbelly, Ledbetter wrote the song ‘Walk Around My Bedside’ to celebrate the his renewed ability to walk. Following his recovery, Ledbetter remained in New York performing mainly in jazz clubs and on the radio preparing for his trip to Europe in May. His time in Paris would be cut short due to his deteriorating health and the tragic diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). Ledbetter returned to the United States at the end of May, and played only two more shows in his life before passing away in December 1949. Autograph material from Ledbetter—especially of this length—is exceedingly scarce. Pre-certified PSA/DNA.
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