Little Melvin Underwood was born in Mount Helen, Mississippi on December 24, 1935. His mother, who was a sharecropper, moved the family to Vicksburg, Louisiana where Melvin had his first taste of blues music. After hearing Clarence Gatemouth, Melvin’s course was set. He bought a second-hand guitar and harmonica and taught himself to play. He formed a group and began working the area clubs and venues, eventually making his way to the city of Monroe, where he stayed for several years.

It was in Monroe that Melvin got to hear B.B. King. Melvin was invited to play on stage with B.B. and his band, and from that moment, their friendship began. From then on, when B.B. played in Monroe, he would stay over and sit in on Melvin's gigs.

Melvin also met and became friends with many other blues greats, including Bobby Bland, Little Junior Parker, Rocco Gordon, Larry Birdsong, Jimmy Beck, Jimmy Reed and Little Willie John. He worked and toured with many of these artists over the years, and eventually was introduced to Ivory Joe Hunter, who Melvin’s band backed for several years, touring across the country.

When the band dissolved due to Ivory Joe’s poor health, Melvin went on to Florida, where he lived, cared for his ailing wife, and worked a steady schedule of endless one nighters. After Florida, Melvin continued on to Indiana, New Jersey, and up into Quebec.

In 1998, Melvin released his CD, Dealin' with the Feelin, and he continues to play today.

Little Melvin Underwood was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame on September 25, 2011 as “Legendary Blues Artist.”

© September 2011
Photos: Susan O'Kane