WINNSBORO — The 145 Club in Winnsboro hosted a special celebration on Jan. 27 in honor of the 80th birthday of blues legend Drink Small, also known as “The Blues Doctor.”
The evening featured musicians Marv Ward, WallStreet Jim, Anthony Charles the Blues Dolphins, and many more who paid respect to the great legend. This was a unique evening that allowed those in attendance to have a personal conversation with Small.
Small was born in 1933 in Lee County in Bishopville. He started playing at the age of 11. When Small was in high school he organized a group called the Six Stars.
“I was ashamed to sing,” Small said. “I was playing instrumental songs like Blind Boy Fuller stuff. I played piano in the church. Then I began to start singing. I came up playing both blues and gospel. On Friday and Saturday night I would make $5 a night playing at house parties. That was more than a man plowing a mule all week was getting.”
During the course of his career while traveling outside of South Carolina, Small joined the Spiritualaires and they recorded on the Vee Jay label. The group played at the Apollo and toured with Sam Cooke, the Harmonizing Four, and the Staple Singers.
Once the group broke up, Small returned to Columbia where he played for college students. During that time he recorded “I Love You Alberta” and “Cold, Cold, Rain” on the Sharp label, a subsidiary of Savoy.
“Drink Small is a living connection to all the souls who went before him in the blues culture,” said Anthony Charles of the Midland Blues Society.
Small was inducted into the S.C. Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame in 1999, and shares the honor with such luminaries as James Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Joanne Woodward, Bill Pinkney and many others. Since 1999 he has also been inducted into the S.C. Black Hall of Fame.
“I have known Drink since the 70s when he played on my radio show at WCKM,” said Jimmy Burroughs, retired police chief and director of Christ Central Ministries. “I enjoy spending as much time with him as possible playing the guitar at home with him. He is the last of the true Blues artist in America.”
Burroughs said Small introduced him to Billy Branch and the Chicago Blues Band.
“Billy told me to take care of Drink because he is a living legend,” Burroughs said.