Thomas Burt, “My hooks in the water”

When I first moved to Durham, NC in the late 1980s, Thomas Burt was playing regularly at Halby’s Deli and music festivals in the area. I was lucky to have seen and heard him several times playing live.

Size: 15.5″ x 20″

Multi-Media, Acrylic on wood


I’m pretty sure Thomas played a version of this song “My hooks in the water and my cork is on top” every time I saw him. It was great seeing this little old fellow up there joking and boasting that he was gonna steal all the girls in the crowded bar! He was such a talented beautiful person that I believe he could have if he really wanted to!

Thomas Burt (1900-1990)

From the 1920s through the ‘40s, Thomas Burt earned his reputation playing music around the Durham tobacco warehouses, at house parties, & at community gatherings. He became a prominent figure in Durham’s flourishing blues community, performing alongside local masters such as Sonny Terry & Blind Boy Fuller.

Below is a demo of the sound module that I built into this piece. there’s a button behind the “Play The Blues” board that the viewer can press to play a 20-second clip of Thomas playing one of his best-known songs “ My hooks in the water and my cork is on top”. In this quick video, you can also see some of my other paintings of North Carolina Blues artists. These pieces are all available for purchase in my online shop.


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