Jefferson was born to a family of sharecroppers on September 24th, 1893, near Coutchman, Texas. With his early life not very well documented, it is known that Jefferson had many siblings (up to 7 or 8) and stayed around the Texas area for most or all of his childhood.
Actually, according to Lead Belly's memory (recounting stories to Alan Lomax in the 1940's), as early as 1911 when he was about 18 years old, Jefferson and Lead Belly partnered as a duo, lightly travelling and performing together; particularly, they travelled to Dallas on occasion. Another account of that 1910s period from his cousin Alec Jefferson, paints a picture of Blind Lemon steadily making a name for himself and gaining invaluable experience. Alec Jefferson was quoted as saying Jefferson would play on street corners, with street hustlers running too and fro, selling their bootleg wares, while Blind Lemon would sing from 8pm to 4am straight — song after song; him just sitting there and playing.
The next definitive check on Blind Lemon's timeline comes around 1917, when he submitted his draft registration and also likely moved to the Deep Ellum section of Dallas. According to his draft registration, he stated, interestingly, that he had been blind since birth (and he also recalled his birthday as being October 26th 1894 rather than September 24th, 1893). Other interesting notes from this period include that he apparently began mentoring a very young T-Bone Walker (then known as Aaron Thibeaux Walker). Famously, Jefferson was a high-earner, considering the usual social barriers of the time, earning very well for himself.
The real, trail-blazing side of Blind Lemon's story came in 1925, when he first got signed to Paramount. Taking note of this year, Jefferson recorded before well-known legends such as Charley Patton, Son House, and Robert Johnson, among many others. Although others had recorded solo blues recordings (such as Sylvester Weaver in 1923), Jefferson's fresh presence in the burgeoning recording world was like a tsunami. Travelling to Chicago in December 1925 through January 1926 to make his first recordings, he used a pseudonym called "Deacon L.G. Bates", next recording under his own name in March 1926 — recordings ("Booster Blues" and "Dry Southern Blues" which proved to be hits). Boosted from that success, Paramount kept calling Jefferson back. His next session with "Got the Blues" and "Long Lonesome Blues" earned six-figure sales which was huge money for the time. All in all, he recorded approximately 100 songs from then on, until 1929.
From an opportunity standpoint, the proven success of Blind Lemon, most likely then led to Paramount recruiting such artists as Blind Joe Reynolds, Blind Blake, Barbecue Bob, Son House, and Charley Patton; musicians who (who knows) may not have had the chance to record had it not been for Blind Lemon's pioneering of the blues recording field.
After just those few years of great success, Jefferson died in Chicago in the morning of December 19th, 1929. Since then, theories have circulated about what truly caused his death. Was it just a natural heart attack after a snowstorm, was his chauffeur bent on stealing his riches (therefore murdering him in cold blood), or did a lover poison him? In any case, full closure on his death may never arise. As listeners, it's simply quite fortunate that Jefferson's career was packed with many recordings to listen back on, and the fact that he helped popularize solo guitar blues so that many other artists (like Blind Blake, Patton, and House) were also recorded.
Notably, despite Jefferson's plea in See That My Grave Is Kept Clean, Jefferson's grave remained unmarked until 1967, when a Texas historical marker was brought to his Freestone County, Texas burial site. With the marker in withering condition by the mid-1990s, a much more fitting, granite headstone was erected in 1997, featuring his immortal One Kind Favour lyrics inscribed on the headstone. Later in 2007, the initially named Wortham Negro Cemetary was renamed as the Blind Lemon Memorial Cemetary