Open main menu

Cootie Stark (December 27, 1927 – April 14, 2005)[2] was an American Piedmont blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter.[3] His best remembered recordings were "Metal Bottoms" and "Sandyland." Stark was known as the 'King of the Piedmont blues.'[2]

Cootie Stark
Birth nameJames Miller or Johnny Miller
Also known asBlind Johnny Miller[1]
King of the Piedmont blues[2]
Born(1927-12-27)December 27, 1927
Abbeville, South Carolina, United States
DiedApril 14, 2005(2005-04-14) (aged 77)
Greenville, South Carolina, United States
GenresPiedmont blues, songster[3]
Occupation(s)Guitarist, singer, songwriter
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals
Years activeLate 1930s – 2005
LabelsMusic Maker


He was born either James Miller[1][3] or Johnny Miller,[4] in Abbeville, South Carolina, United States, the son of sharecroppers,[1] and grew up in Anderson County.[3] Stark was given his first guitar by his father at the age of 14,[5] having then relocated to Greenville, South Carolina. His poor eyesight meant that he was unable to find regular employment. He began busking on street corners, and learned his art from fellow street performers such as Peg Leg Sam, Pink Anderson and Josh White plus, particularly in his earliest days, from Baby Tate.[1][3][5] He acquired the nickname, Sugar Man, and continued to work his trade as a songster in the area.[3] His performing name of Cootie Stark was an amalgam of a childhood nickname and his grandfather's surname.[4]

His eyesight deteriorated until he was legally registered as blind, but Stark continued to perform across the State and beyond,[3] often using the name Blind Johnny Miller.[1] However, by the 1980s, with playing prospects diminishing, Stark settled in Greenville. "By then, the real Piedmont blues was pretty much gone," he stated. "All them guys were dead and gone and I wasn't making no headway."[6] In 1997, when Stark was over seventy years old, he was heard playing Fats Domino songs by Tim Duffy, the founder of the Music Maker Relief Foundation.[5] Their record label released Stark's debut album, Sugar Man, in 1999. In 2003, Stark released his second and final album, Raw Sugar, when he was again accompanied on record by Taj Mahal.[3] He received the South Carolina Folk Heritage Award in 2005.[1]

Stark died at the age of 77, in Greenville, in April 2005.[2]


Solo albumsEdit

Year Title Record label
1999 Sugar Man Music Maker
2003 Raw Sugar Music Maker


Guest appearancesEdit

Year Album Artist Details
2007 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads Kenny Wayne Sheppard Guest vocals ("Prison Blues")


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f Dave Peabody, Obituary in Juke Blues no. 59, 2005, p.67
  2. ^ a b c d "Doc Rock" (2011). "The Dead Rock Stars Club 2005 January to June" Accessed October 18, 2011
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Steve Leggett. "Cootie Stark". Allmusic. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  4. ^ a b Room, Adrian (2010). Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins (5th ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 453/4. ISBN 978-0-7864-4373-4.
  5. ^ a b c "Cootie Stark". Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  6. ^ "Cootie Stark". Archived from the original on October 6, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  7. ^ "Cootie Stark | Album Discography". AllMusic. 1927-12-27. Retrieved 2015-10-02.
  8. ^ Steve Leggett. "10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads - Kenny Wayne Shepherd - Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 October 2014.