Bo Carter was one of the early country blues artists whose music had a strong impact on the development of blues. Armenter Chatmon was born to Henderson Chatmon and Eliza Jackson on the Dupress Plantation near Bolton on 21 March 1893. In his very musical family, his parents and all twelve siblings played instruments or sang. Though known mostly for his guitar playing and singing, Bo Carter also played bass, banjo, violin, and clarinet. He first performed with several of his brothers in a string band later known as the Mississippi Sheiks. Although he often played live with the Mississippi Sheiks, Carter appeared on only a few of their recordings.
Carter is often most remembered for his double entendre, hokum-style blues from the 1930s, where titles such as “Banana in Your Fruit Basket,” “Please Warm My Wiener,” “My Pencil Won’t Write No More,” and “Don’t Mash My Digger So Deep” left little lyrical ambiguity. Carter did, however, write a large number of nonbawdy songs. In 1928 Carter recorded the earliest version of the blues standard “Corrine, Corrina.” Carter recorded with artists such as Walter Vincson, Charlie McCoy, and others from 1928 to 1930. In late 1930 he began a decadelong solo recording career, producing more than one hundred songs for the Bluebird and OKeh labels. Despite losing his eyesight in the 1930s, Carter continued to perform.
Although he is most often classified as a blues musician, Carter performed in a number of different styles. He often played country dance tunes and songs. Some of his songs fit a thirty-two-bar AABA structure, which is not common to blues.
Carter died in relative obscurity after suffering a brain hemorrhage in Memphis on 21 September 1964.
- Steve Calt, Bo Carter: Banana in Your Fruit Basket (2002), liner notes
- Steve Cheseborough, in Encyclopedia of the Blues, ed. Edward Komara (2006)
- Steve Douglas Cheseborough, “Mashing That Thing: Meaning and Eroticism in the Music of Bo Carter” (master’s thesis, University of Mississippi, 1999)