In 1903 he was fined $25 for a shooting offence, after he fathers a daughter, he leaves Mooringsport for Shreveport in 1904.
After travelling around Texas learning music, he marries Lethe Henderson in 1908 and finds employment cotton picking but after two years Leadbelly and Lethe leave the cotton fields and move to Dallas.
Leadbelly's blues education is much advanced when he meets Blind Lemon Jefferson in 1912.
After another incident involving a pistol in 1915 he is sentenced to 30 days in prison, but he escapes and hides with Lethe in north east Texas.
Two years later in the December of 1917, Leadbelly shoots and kills a friend, Will Stafford, and is sentenced to 20 years in prison. After serving eight years he is freed, when he makes a successfully sung plea for a pardon to Texas Governor Pat Neff.
In 1930 Leadbelly is in trouble with the law again for stabbing a white man and is sentenced to six to ten years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary.
John and Alan Lomax, trawling the prison for folk songs, are provided with some excellent recorded material by Leadbelly and he is released from prison in 1934.
In January the following year he marries Martha Promise. Between January and March of the same year, he also makes his first commercial recordings for ARC.
Leadbelly and Martha settle in New York in 1937, where Leadbelly is employed by John Lomax, one of the brothers he met in prison, as a chauffeur.
Two years on he makes his first records at a session set up by Alan Lomax for the Musicraft label and in 1944 he moves to Hollywood, in the hope of making it in the movies.
Leadbelly only makes one visit to Europe, and plays some dates in Paris, but on 6th December 1949 he dies in New York of motor neurone disease.