Also known as Pinewood Tom and Tippy Barton. He was the first black singer-guitarist to have featured roles in Hollywood and Broadway.
He sang in his local church's choir at a young age. He helped introduce largely white audiences to folk-blues music.
He was featured on a set of four thirty-two-cent U.S. commemorative postage stamps in the Legends of American Music series, which was issued in 1998.
He married Carol Carr in 1933.
He was Franklin D. Roosevelt's confidant during his presidency, and in 1941, he was the first black singer to give a White House Command Performance.