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Eddie Cotton, Jr.

soul blues
Clinton, Mississippi

Eddie Cotton, Jr.Bluesman Eddie Cotton, Jr.’s music is rooted in the church. His father was a Pentecostal minister, shepherding the Christ Chapel Church of God in Christ that he founded in Clinton, Mississippi, just west of Jackson. While music was central to church services, his family and his congregation shunned secular music. Nonetheless, Cotton reflects, “The deepest of the blues I’ve ever played is in church.… The style they play on is nothing but blues.”

Cotton is a master of soul blues, a style that resonates particularly with African American audiences. Emerging in the 1960s, soul blues fuses the gritty guitar sound central to blues tradition with the smoother, gospel-influenced vocal style of soul and R&B music. Soul blues is music meant to move the body and spirit, which is why Cotton describes his sound as “hard driving blues” or “juke joint blues.” "If I’m playing to the best of my ability,” Cotton explains, "you’re going to move.… [This is] not sit down and look at me blues.”

Eddie learned the power of music in church. When he was six, his father bought him his first electric guitar, a black and tan Peavey T-60, and by age eight, the younger Cotton was an official member of the church band, eventually becoming lead guitarist. At 18, he won a full scholarship to study music theory at Jackson State University, where he discovered that the basic structures of blues were ingrained in his playing: “I could already play the 12-bar blues because it sounded like old congregational songs. I was already doing it, but I just didn’t know the theory.” After college he became minister of music at the family church, and, at the same time, began playing with Mississippi bluesman King Edward Antoine, known in Jackson as “The Blues Picking King.” “What King Edward did, was give me a direction I was already looking for,” Cotton recalls.

Now in his late 40s, Eddie Cotton, Jr. is a blues master with a growing international fan base. He has opened for legends like Ike Turner and B.B. King, and in 2015, he took top honors at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. However, his musical career remains focused on two things: regular gigs for enthusiastic soul blues audiences in Jackson and beyond, and a continuing commitment to his home church in Clinton, where he serves as both church administrator and minister of music. Whatever the venue, Cotton’s goal is always to find what his church calls “the pocket,” a place of spiritual transcendence where “the music just pulsates in everybody’s mind and heart.”

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