||African American blues singer and guitarist Sam Hopkins was born in Centerville, Leon County, Texas in 1912, the youngest of five children of Abe and Frances (Washington) Hopkins. Sam learned to play guitar from John Henry and Joel Hopkins, two of his older brothers, and began his musical career in Central Texas under the guidance of Texas blues pioneers Alger “Texas” Alexander and Blind Lemon Jefferson.
Hopkins traveled throughout the south for many years but ultimately settled in Houston in the mid-1940s. He became a mainstay of Houston’s Third Ward music clubs, especially those located on and around Dowling Street. Hopkins was “discovered” by an Aladdin Records talent scout in 1946 and was sent to Los Angeles for his first recording sessions. It was during these sessions that Hopkins picked up the nickname “Lightnin’” and recorded his first hit record, “Katy Mae.” After returning to Houston, Hopkins recorded for Gold Star, one of the earliest labels to record blues in Houston.
Despite recording success, Hopkins continued to play and sing at Houston dance parties, street corners, and Dowling Street establishments. He also continued to record and tour, although he rarely played outside of Texas during the 1950s. The popularity of folk and blues music of the 1960s brought additional attention to Hopkins, and he performed to more integrated audiences, including several performances at New York’s Carnegie Hall. After a prolific career that included approximately 100 recorded albums, and over 600 songs, Hopkins died in 1982; he is buried in Houston’s Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery.