Aaron "Pinetop" Sparks (1906-1935) was a blues pianist active in St. Louis in the early 1930s. A fine boogie-woogie player, he and his brother Marion also wrote blues songs including the standard "Every Day I Have the Blues"; Pinetop was the first person to record that song, in 1935. He died at age 29 of either poisoning or exhaustion.
His parents had moved to St. Louis in 1920; Pinetop had had "rudimentary music education at school". With his twin brother Marion "Lindberg" Sparks he formed a group, he playing the piano (boogie-woogie style) and his brother singing.Henry Townsend recalled in his memoir that Pinetop played, like all other St. Louis musicians, in the "speakeasy type places" such as Nettie's on Delmar Boulevard, where he played for a long time. The boys had a sister, Jimmie Lee, who never recorded but, according to Townsend, had a wonderful singing voice from which Lindberg learned everything. They were accompanied by a guitarist, Pete Bogans, and a trombone player, Ike Rogers.
Their first recording session was in 1932, when they recorded a number of blues and boogie-woogie songs. Pinetop (who got his nickname from playing Pinetop Smith's hit "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie") is praised for "excellent technique", capable of both "fierce boogie-woogie style" and "chorded basses and rich treble passages" to accompany his brother. Pinetop also recorded "Bad Luck Blues" with Dorothea Trowbridge and "Whiskey Blues" with Elizabeth Washington, both in 1933. Most often, the brothers would only play together occasionally. Notable recordings by Pinetop include a version of "Every Day I Have the Blues", recorded in 1935 and re-issued on the Windy City Blues compilation (Nighthawk, 1992). In that same year, on 28 July, he recorded his version of "Every Day I Have the Blues", a song he'd written with his brother, and released on Bluebirds B-6125. In 1949, the song was co-opted under a different title by Memphis Slim.
Apparently the brothers did not always get along, didn't always have work (they worked the bars and clubs of St. Louis), and ran into trouble with the law; Pinetop did some drinking, and Lindberg had killed a man (in self-defense), for which he spent time in a workhouse in 1937. Pinetop died, apparently of poisoning, in 1935; Townsend, however, claims that he died of exhaustion: apparently Pinetop was in the habit of never saying no to a gig, playing all throughout the weekend and consequently losing sometimes 24 hours of sleep. Combined with heavy drinking (to stay awake), this led to his death: "he just done burned himself out, according to Townsend. His brother lived a more calm and respectable life until a heart attack in 1963.
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