Henry Speller was born in the settlement of Panther Bum in the Delta country of Central Mississippi. He grew up working on Delta where he often drew pictures during his lunch breaks. In 1939, he left Mississippi for Memphis, Tennessee. Speller moved to a house located a few blocks from Beale Street, the musical heart of Memphis. He was an accomplished blues musician who played guitar with Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters.
The imagery and insistent rhythms of the Delta blues flow through Speller’s work, but his iconography is an explicit commentary of the social, economic, and racial exclusions he observed throughout his life.