Fenton Robinson, a groundbreaking blues guitarist and singer who composed such blues tunes as “Somebody Loan Me a Dime” and “Tennessee Woman,” died Nov. 25 in Rockford, Ill., of complications from brain cancer. He was 62.
His swinging, jazzy style combined with the country blues of Mississippi and contemporary soul influences was hailed by critics who placed him in the front ranks of progressive bluesmen.
Born in LeFlore County, Miss., and inspired by the records of T-Bone Walker, Robinson began performing as a teenager in Memphis. He made his recording debut there in 1957 with his original “Tennessee Woman,” which became a frequently covered blues standard.
The success of this single won Fenton a contract with R&B giant Duke Records, for whom Robinson recorded a series of singles that won airplay across the South, including the seminal version of “As the Years Go Passing By.”
In the 1960s, Robinson moved to Chicago, where he played with bluesmen Junior Wells, Otis Rush and others. He gained a strong following in local blues clubs and with independent recordings before scoring a major national blues hit with the original version of “Loan Me a Dime,” released in 1967.
Robinson signed with Nashville-based Seventy-Seven Records before finally joining Chicago-based Alligator Records in 1975, for whom he cut two critically acclaimed albums, “Somebody Loan Me a Dime” (1975) and “I Hear Some Blues Downstairs” (1977).