Not much is known about One String Sam, an eccentric street musician who walked into Joe's Record Shop on Hastings Street in Detroit in 1956 and recorded two odd and unforgettable tracks, "I Need a Hundred Dollars" and "My Baby Ooo," on a fretless, one- string instrument that was essentially a diddley bow, consisting of a wood plank with a piano wire stretched between two nails, augmented with an electric guitar pickup. Sam, whose real name was Sam Wilson, fretted the instrument with a baby food jar and, placing the jar near the vocal microphone when he sang, created his own echo chamber. The result was an eerie, spooky, and riveting version of country blues. Sam played on the streets in Detroit for a few years, but eventually vanished. He was relocated in nearby Inkster in 1973 and added to the roster of the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival that year, where he performed "I Need a Hundred Dollars" and "I Got to Go" before vanishing once again into blues history. His entire recorded output consists of the two sides recorded in 1956, plus the two tracks recorded at the 1973 festival in Ann Arbor. The Hastings Street tracks (which were originally released on JVB Records) can be found on Document's Rural Blues, Vol. 1, while the festival tracks are on Motor City Blues, released in 1998 by Total Energy Records.
by Steve Leggett