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He was the son of John White and Lula Davison, who called him to Booker t. Washington.  he was a cousin of blues artist B.B. King.  there is lack of clarity about Whites precise date and place of birth. He himself has in several interviews 1906 and 1909 as birth years.  In most sources (including Allmusic and Rolling Stone's Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll) is 12 november 1906 as birth date. White was born in Aberdeen or Houston (Mississippi).
With his six brothers and sisters he grew up on the farm of his grandfather on. his father taught White songs to play on the fiddle and later he gave him guitar lessons. Although his grandmother had objection against "those devilish music" in her house got White at the age of nine by his father a private guitar.   he learned singing in a Baptist Church.  his teen years brought White by in Grenada, Mississippi, on the farm of an uncle. During this period he worked in the countryside and made music in the evening. 
In 1930, White discovered by talent scout Ralph Limbo, after which he took up in Memphis, Tennessee music for Victor Records.  He then made use of the name Washington White.  by the great depression , he managed to no success in this period still harvested: the record label wanted to release only a few songs, the economic slump had a detrimental effect on sales and White only years later got a chance to record music.  In 1933, he moved to West Point, Mississippi. There he worked again in the countryside and was also active as an athlete: he played baseball in the Negro League and boxed.  
Big Bill Broonzy asked him in Chicago in 1937 to record music for the American Record Company, but White had to postpone this recording session when he was arrested. He had, in his own words from self-defense, a man shot in his upper leg. He makes use of his bail to travel to Chicago, where he recorded two songs before he was picked up again. Three years after this (from 1937 to 1940) he sat in the Parchman Farm prison his sentence. Under the name Washington 'Barrelhouse' White he took in 1939 twice music for the Library of Congress. John and Alan Lomax took care of the musical production. After his release in 1940, he participated with Lester Melrose as a music producer twelve songs for Vocalion Records, including "Parchman Farm Blues", "Good Bukka's," Jitterbug Swing "Gin Blues", "Aberdeen," Mississippi Blues "and"Fixin' to Die Blues". 
During the Second World War served White for two years in the United States Navy. He then moved to Memphis, Tennessee and was barely more active as a musician. Bob Dylan appeared on his debut album(1962) the by White written "Fixin' to Die". A year later, White rediscovered by blues enthusiasts John Fahey and Ed Denson (or Dawson).   this began for him a second career as an artist. He took in the 1960smusic on for Takoma and Arhoolie Records, and performed in coffee houses and on music festivalssuch as the Newport Folk Festival in 1966. Also, he performed on the occasion of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico. In the 1970s he appeared in all kinds of movies and television programs about blues. In 1977, at White established cancer . He died in a hospital in Memphis and was buried in that city at the New Park Cemetery.