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'Sharecropper's Son': Louisiana Musician Finds Success Decades After Trying

Artist Robert Finley.
Alysse Gafjken
Courtesy of the artist
Artist Robert Finley.

While Robert Finley doesn't live far from where he grew up – less than 200 miles – he's come a long way. "I don't really like sharing nothing too much now, because I never got my share as a sharecropper."

"All of my parents on grandparents on both sides were into music, even if they were just singing in the cottonfield." He bought his first instrument at the age of 10, with money he'd been given for a new pair of shoes.

After trying, but failing, to find a reliable band to play with after his time in the armed forces, Finley pivoted to building houses, running his own business for many years. But then, he lost his eyesight to glaucoma around the time he turned 60 years old. His life seemed irrevocably changed. "I had my little pity party ... but sooner or later, you've gotta pick up the pieces."

In 2015, Finley was spotted by the Music Maker Relief Foundation while busking outside of an Alabama music festival, and eventually shared Finley's songs with some record labels. Sooner than later, he was in the recording studio... and a short time after that, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and a busy person around Nashville besides, reached out.

The next thing he knew, Finley was jamming with veteran session players. "He had on leather pants, and snakeskin boots, and a giant gold belt buckle... he was ready to rock," Dan Auerbach says. Finley more than held his own. "When he walks in the room, he's like a star ... he has this magnetism. I don't know what it is."

Robert Finley's Sharecropper's Son was released on May 21.

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