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Larry S. Bonura

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PICKENS, EDWIN [BUSTER] (1916–1964). Edwin "Buster" Pickens, blues pianist, was born on June 3, 1916, in Hempstead, Texas. He was the son of Eli Pickens and Bessie Gage. As an itinerant musician in his early life, Pickens played in barrelhouses across the southern states. This helped him to shape his own blues piano style, which partook of the Texas idiom, what some would call "sawmill" piano.

After serving in the military in World War II, he returned to Houston and made his first record, accompanying the vocals of Alger "Texas" Alexander along with guitarist Leon Benton. In addition, he performed regularly with Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins. He appears in some of Hopkins's records for Prestige/Bluesville in the early 1960s. The Lightnin' Hopkins Quartet included Lightnin' Hopkins on vocals and guitar, Donald Cooks on bass, Spider Kilpatrick on drums, and Pickens on piano.

He also made a solo album, Buster Pickens, in 1960 that showed his thorough knowledge of the Texas blues style. In 1962 Pickens appeared in the movie The Blues. His promising new career in the blues revival, however, was ended when he was murdered a few years later, at age forty-eight, as a result of a barroom dispute about a dollar on November 24, 1964, in Houston.


Sheldon Harris, Blues Who's Who: A Biographical Dictionary of Blues Singers (New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1979). Houston Post, November 25, 1964. 'Buster' Pickens discography (, accessed November 4, 2008.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Larry S. Bonura, "PICKENS, EDWIN [BUSTER]," accessed July 19, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on November 1, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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