Pete Welding, one of America’s foremost blues authorities, made major contributions to the documentation of the blues both as a writer and as a record producer. Little of his work as a critic, annotator and historian has been compiled into book form, but his writing informed countless readers and record buyers through his 1960s and ’70s articles and liner notes. His Testament label in Chicago was responsible for many of the most important albums issued for the newly developing blues collectors’ market during the same period; among those he recorded were Otis Spann, Johnny Shines, J.B. Hutto, Eddie Taylor, Big Joe Williams, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Robert Nighthawk, and Johnny Young. Welding’s love for blues developed in Philadelphia, where he was born Nov. 15, 1935. Although he was able to find and record a few traditional blues artists in Philadelphia, after he moved to Chicago in 1962 to accept a position with Down Beat magazine he found the Windy City loaded with bluesmen. He chose to focus on the more traditional bluesmen, including many who were no longer working the clubs much, if at all. As a writer his name became a familiar and respected one to anyone who read blues magazines and liner notes, and his Down Beat interviews with Howlin’ Wolf and Son House remain crucial source material for blues historians. Welding moved to California in the mid-1960s and continued to operate Testament for several years as a sideline to salaried positions he secured with various larger labels, including Epic, Playboy, ABC, and Capitol. During his last years Welding compiled a number of historic blues reissue packages and co-edited the 1991 book Bluesland: Portraits of Twelve Major American Blues Masters. He died of a heart attack on Nov. 17, 1995, in Altaloma, California.
— Jim O’Neal