Lonesome Sundown was given his Blues name by Jay Miller, the legendary producer at Excello Records who also gave new names to Lightnin’ Slim, Lazy Lester and many more. Lonesome’s particular brand of ‘swamp Blues’ had strong echoes of the hard-edged sound of Chicago Blues rather than the usual one-chord boogies or the more lyrical style of the Zydeco bands where he got started.
Cornelius Green was born near Donaldsville LA in 1928 and as a teenager he went to work in New Orleans. He learned to play guitar, and while working in the Gulf Coast oilfields, he began appearing at clubs in Port Arthur. He was spotted by Clifton Chenier, who offered him the gig as ‘second’ guitar with The Zydeco Ramblers. They went on tour to Chicago and the West-coast, where they cut some tracks in Los Angeles, but Cornelius soon left because he wanted to work on his own material. A demo tape found its way to Jay Miller, who got Cornelius into the studio, came up with the ‘Lonesome Sundown’ tag and leased the tapes to Excello. This began an eight year career with Jay and Excello which produced a string of good selling singles that never troubled the national charts. This may have been down to Excello’s marketing, which was largely done by mail-order and in ‘bundles’, which they promoted through a radio station that reached Canada and Mexico. All this made it difficult for Billboard to validate sales.
‘Stick to You Baby’, with Lazy Lester‘s harp; Lonesome’s strong, distinctive voice and powerful guitar style was often complimented by the bright harp sound of Lazy Lester, but he sometimes just sang with his guitar or a gentle piano. Lonesome wrote some great songs like ‘My Home is a Prison’, made up on the spot when his religious wife phoned the studio to ask him to come home. Other songs like ‘Gonna Stick to You Baby’, were covered by many later singers, and Excello released an album of Lonesome’s self-written music in 1965. Soon afterwards, a messy divorce and disillusionment with his lack of commercial success caused Lonesome to walk away from the business. He was eventually ordained as a Minister of an Apostolic Church, but after a decade away from music, Lonesome cut a great new album in 1977. ‘Been Gone Too Long’ had some fine, laid-back Blues, but it didn’t sell too well despite being re-issued by Alligator Records a couple of years later. Lonesome played at the New Orleans Heritage Festival in 1979, and toured Europe and Japan, but fell out of love with playing and retired again. He had a serious stroke in 1994, and passed away in Gonzales LA the following year. (All About Blues Music)