Huddie Ledbetter was a powerful presence, bold, outspoken, and, at forty-two, unbowed by his years in prisons. He had earned his name from a life of toughness, from his strengh, his badness, and a bullet in his stomach. Though only five feet seven inches tall and 171 pounds, he appeared bigger than he was, seemed to give off light when he sang. He spoke with confidence, pride and an undisguised intelligence, none of it part of the standard prisoner’s repartee. He moved like a boxer, light on his feet, and had the muscles of having been a lead man on the prison work crew for years. Born in the 1880s on a family farm near Mooringsport, Louisiana, Lead Belly had learned to play an array of instruments while he was still a child, but had settle on the twelve-string guitar because of its volume and the buzzing sound that he said appealed to women.