New highway sign in Northampton to feature an Eastern Shore rock and roll legend

July 11, 2023
Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup
Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup
UNSPECIFIED – JANUARY 01: Photo of Arthur ‘Big Boy’ CRUDUP; Posed full length portrait of Arthur Big Boy Crudup with guitar (Photo by Gilles Petard/Redferns)

The Virginia Department of Transportation has authorized a road sign that will honor Eastern Shore icon Arthur Big Boy Crudup. 

A former Northampton County resident who wrote three of Elvis Presley’s hits in the 50s will be the subject of a new road sign near Nassawadox on rt. 13.  The sign will commemorate Authur Big Boy Crudup who lived on the Shore from 1960 until his death in 1974.

The sign will be placed on Rt. 13 near Nassawadox in Northampton County.  Crudup has posthumously been credited to be a major influence in the career of  Elvis Presley whose music and on stage charisma in the mid 1950s was a main driver of the growth of rock and roll.   Presley was a trail blazer that opened the door for groups like the Beatles and many more rock acts that not only revolutionized music but helped generate a worldwide culture change.

The movie “Elvis” showed a scene where the young Presley, before he became a star,  attended an African American music event in a time of segregation. Crudup allegedly performed and Presley was mesmerized by the charisma and the excitement generated in the room by that style of performance.  Although the scene was likely poetic license, Crudup’s influence was a major part of  Presley’s on stage performance that was a main driver of his career and the Rock and Roll movement as well.

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The blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup was born in Forest, Mississippi, on August 24, 1905. Sometimes referred to as “The Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Crudup gained prominence as a recording artist in Chicago in the 1940s. In 1954, Elvis Presley’s career took off after he recorded a version of “That’s All Right,” a song originally written and performed by Crudup in Chicago. Presley later covered two more of Crudup’s songs, “My Baby Left Me” and “So Glad You’re Mine.” Others who covered Crudup included The Beatles, B.B. King, and Elton John. A self-taught musician who lived through poverty and oppression, Crudup rarely received royalties for his work and instead supported his family as a laborer and farm worker. He moved to Franktown in Northampton County in Virginia 1960 and performed with his sons, James, George, and Jonas, as The Malibus in the Eastern Shore communities of Weirwood and Nassawadox. Crudup died on March 28, 1974, and is buried in Nassawadox.


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