Mississippi-born Beard is a veteran blues singer and guitarist who was not widely known until recently. He grew up with Matt "Guitar" Murphy, whom he credits for getting him started on guitar. Beard settled in Rochester, N.Y. -- far from the music industry and from the blues proving ground that was Chicago in the late 1950s and '60s. He fronted popular local bands, and later issued a series of acclaimed records in the mid-1990s. He is an arresting vocalist with an impassioned, gritty tenor; as a guitarist he is mercurial, capable of searing single-note runs as well as acoustic Delta Blues picking.