Eddie Tigner was born on Aug. 11, 1926, in Macon, Georgia. After his father died from mustard gas in World War I, his mother married a coal miner who moved the family to a mining camp in Kentucky. Eddie fondly remembers listening to bluegrass and country and western music as a child. When he was 14, the family returned South to Atlanta, and Eddie started following his piano-playing mother to house parties, breakdowns, fish fries, and barbecues, where she was in demand as an entertainer.
Eddie didn’t learn to play the piano himself, however, until he began his service in the Army in 1945 and was taught by a friend, Edward Louis, at a base in Maryland. Eddie was in charge of booking entertainment at the special service hall each weekend, and often drove to Baltimore to pick up Bill Kenney (of the original Ink Spots) and his group to perform for the servicemen.
Returning to Atlanta after his discharge, Eddie joined the Musicians’ Union in 1947 and put together his first group, the Maroon Notes, in which he played vibes. They performed in vaudeville shows at theaters in Atlanta, and often toured through small towns as far as the West Coast of Florida. Eddie also played with legendary blues guitarist Elmore James during the early ’50s, when James was living in Atlanta. They performed on weekends at the Lithonia Country Club, which featured all-black motorcycle and stock car races each Saturday.
In 1959, a version of the Ink Spots–one of several that traversed the country playing hotel lounges using the name of the original group– had a show in Atlanta and needed a pianist. Eddie joined the band and performed steadily as an “Ink Spot” until 1987, booked throughout this entire period by T.D. Kemp of Charlotte, N.C.
These days, Eddie “feeds the children” at his job in an elementary school cafeteria, but he’s also been playing in small clubs around Atlanta since 1991. Atlanta guitarist Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck introduced Eddie to the Music Maker Relief Foundation, and he has since appeared at major events including the Chicago Blues Festival and the Blues to Bop Festival in Lugano, Switzerland.