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James Head

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WILSON, HARDING [HOP] (1921–1975). Harding "Hop" Wilson, blues singer, guitarist, and harmonica player, was born in Grapeland, Texas, on April 27, 1921. (Some sources, including All Music Guide, list his birth year as 1927.) He was one of thirteen children of Charlie Watson and Alma B. Johnson. Wilson grew up in Crockett, Texas, where his family moved while he was very young. When he was a child, he was strongly influenced by recordings of Blind Lemon Jefferson, which inspired him to learn the guitar and harmonica.

Hop Wilson
Harding "Hop" Wilson. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Wilson's nickname was derived from his ability to play the harmonica, or "harp," which he pronounced "hop." He played in local venues around Crockett when he was a teenager and worked at other odd jobs throughout the 1930s and early 1940s. He was drafted in 1942 and served with the United States Army until he was discharged in 1946. After returning to Crockett, he played local gigs while working in non-music-related jobs until the early 1950s. In the mid-1950s he joined drummer "King" Ivory Lee Semien, and for the next several years they worked clubs in East Texas and Louisiana.

Steel Guitar Flash!
Hop Wilson's Album Steel Guitar Flash!. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Wilson had a short recording career. He cut several tracks with Semien on the Goldband label in 1958. In 1960 he switched to the Ivory label, which Semien owned. Wilson recorded several tracks during 1960 and 1961. From 1961, the year in which he made his final recordings, until the mid-1970s, he also performed in Houston clubs, bars, and restaurants. Although he was virtually unknown outside of Houston, he was a local sensation who influenced numerous modern guitarists. Wilson is best known for his work on the eight-string Hawaiian steel guitar, which he helped popularize throughout the South during the 1940s and 1950s. He played the instrument in the country-and-western style on a stand or in his lap. His unique slide stylings had a significant influence on a variety of guitar players, including L. C. "Good Rockin" Robinson, Sonny Rhodes, Jimmie Vaughan, and Johnny Winter.

Wilson was married to a woman named Glendora. He died of brain disease in Houston on August 27, 1975, and was buried in Mount Zion Cemetery, Grapeland.


Michael Erlewine, et al., eds., AMG All Music Guide To The Blues: The Experts' Guide to the Best Blues Recordings (San Francisco: Miller Freeman, 1999). Sheldon Harris, Blues Who's Who: A Biographical Dictionary of Blues Singers (New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1979). Colin Larkin, ed., Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 3d ed. (New York: Muze, 1998). Robert Santelli, Big Book of the Blues (New York: Penguin Books, 1993).

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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, James Head, "WILSON, HARDING [HOP]," accessed July 09, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwibr.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on August 2, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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