Peetie Wheatstraw was the name adopted by the singer William Bunch, an influential figure among 1930s blues singers. Although the only known photograph of Bunch shows him holding a National brand tricone resonator guitar, he played the piano on most of his recordings.
Wheatstraw was born William Bunch in Ripley, Tennessee but grew up in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, where his family relocated soon after his birth. Little is known of his early life, other than that he took up playing both the piano and guitar at a young age.
Bunch left Cotton Plant in 1927 and began living the life of an itinerant musician traveling throughout the Deep South. Like many African Americans of this time period, the great migration eventually drew his attention to the cities of the North.
Places such as Chicago, Indianapolis and Detroit were favoured destinations, due to the wealth of employment in the factories located in these cities. St. Louis was another city that drew its share of uprooted individuals who sought a better life than that offered by the toil of sharecropping. It was in St. Louis that Bunch landed in 1929.
Having honed his musical talents while travelling, and influenced by the popularity of the Blues duet of pianist Leroy Carr and guitar player Scrapper Blackwell, Bunch found easy work in the clubs of both St. Louis and East St. Louis on the other side of the Mississippi River.