Leo “Bud” Welch

Leo “Bud” Welch (MS)


Leo “Bud“ Welch waited over 80 years to become an overnight sensation. If his story wasn’t verified as true, you’d think some Hollywood scriptwriter made it up. Here’s how it goes: Bud was born in 1932 in Sabougla (pronounced Shah-BOW-gla) to a family, and lives in Bruce, Mississippi, an unincorporated town of around 2000 in Calhoun County, roughly 30 miles northeast of Elvis’s hometown of Tupelo.

Leo learned guitar as a youth, learning to play the blues from listening to the radio. He went on to play his gospel-spiked brand of rural acoustic blues around the area at local churches, picnics, community gatherings, on local radio and TV, and at other venues near Bruce, where he lived with his family and worked on a logging crew in Mississippi hill country. While at times the wider world beckoned, mostly only locals knew of his prodigious talent.

Welch heard about Oxford-based Fat Possum Records/Big Legal Mess Records turning Junior Kimbrough into a star late in his life, and so he called up the label to see if they wanted to make a record with him. And almost just like that, Leo was a big-time recording artist.

Sabougla Voices was released in November 2013 in Bud’s 81st year. It includes both traditional tunes and some of Welch’s originals. It is blues and it is gospel: fiery, heartfelt, and glorious music. Bud says “I believe in the Lord, but the blues speaks to life, too. Blues has a feeling just like gospel; they just don’t have a [bible].” Neither juke joint nor house of worship, we think the wide-open outdoors of Jericho Beach Park is a perfect setting for Mr. Welch and his music – the real deal worth waiting for.