This stunning book charts the rich history of the blues, through the dazzling array of posters, album covers, and advertisements that have shaped its identity over the past hundred years. The blues have been one of the most ubiquitous but diverse elements of American popular music at large, and the visual art associated with this unique sound has been just as varied and dynamic. There is no better guide to this fascinating graphical world than Bill Dahl—a longtime music journalist and historian who has written liner notes for countless reissues of classic blues, soul, R&B, and rock albums. With his deep knowledge and incisive commentary—complementing more than three hundred and fifty lavishly reproduced images—the history of the blues comes musically and visually to life.
What will astonish readers who thumb through these pages is the amazing range of ways that the blues have been represented—whether via album covers, posters, flyers, 78 rpm labels, advertising, or other promotional materials. We see the blues as it was first visually captured in the highly colorful sheet music covers of the early twentieth century. We see striking and hard-to-find label designs from labels big (Columbia) and small (Rhumboogie). We see William Alexander’s humorous artwork on postwar Miltone Records; the cherished ephemera of concert and movie posters; and Chess Records’ iconic early albums designed by Don Bronstein, which would set a new standard for modern album cover design.
What these images collectively portray is the evolution of a distinctively American art form. And they do so in the richest way imaginable. The result is a sumptuous book, a visual treasury as alive in spirit as the music it so vibrantly captures.
This fascinating compendium explains the most unusual, obscure, and curious words and expressions from vintage blues music. Utilizing both documentary evidence and invaluable interviews with a number of now-deceased musicians from the 1920s and '30s, blues scholar Stephen Calt unravels the nuances of more than twelve hundred idioms and proper or place names found on oft-overlooked "race records" recorded between 1923 and 1949. From "aggravatin' papa" to "yas-yas-yas" and everything in between, this truly unique, racy, and compelling resource decodes a neglected speech for general readers and researchers alike, offering invaluable information about black language and American slang.
It started with the searing sound of a slide careening up the neck of an electric guitar. In 1970, twenty-three-year-old Bruce Iglauer walked into Florence’s Lounge, in the heart of Chicago’s South Side, and was overwhelmed by the joyous, raw Chicago blues of Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers. A year later, Iglauer produced Hound Dog’s debut album in eight hours and pressed a thousand copies, the most he could afford. From that one album grew Alligator Records, the largest independent blues record label in the world.
Bitten by the Blues is Iglauer’s memoir of a life immersed in the blues—and the business of the blues. No one person was present at the creation of more great contemporary blues music than Iglauer: he produced albums by Koko Taylor, Albert Collins, Professor Longhair, Johnny Winter, Lonnie Mack, Son Seals, Roy Buchanan, Shemekia Copeland, and many other major figures. In this book, Iglauer takes us behind the scenes, offering unforgettable stories of those charismatic musicians and classic sessions, delivering an intimate and unvarnished look at what it’s like to work with the greats of the blues. It’s a vivid portrait of some of the extraordinary musicians and larger-than-life personalities who brought America’s music to life in the clubs of Chicago’s South and West Sides. Bitten by the Blues is also an expansive history of half a century of blues in Chicago and around the world, tracing the blues recording business through massive transitions, as a genre of music originally created by and for black southerners adapted to an influx of white fans and musicians and found a worldwide audience.
Most of the smoky bars and packed clubs that fostered the Chicago blues scene have long since disappeared. But their soul lives on, and so does their sound. As real and audacious as the music that shaped it, Bitten by the Blues is a raucous journey through the world of Genuine Houserockin’ Music.
Throughout the 1920s, in tents, theaters, dance halls and cabarets, and on "race" records, black American women captivated large audiences with their singing of the blues. University of Maryland professor Harrison examines the subjects and texts of their songs, the toll these performers paid for their right to be heard, and what they did to transform a folk tradition into a popular art. She describes the singing and lifestyles of Sippie Wallace, Victoria Spivey, Edith Wilson and Alberta Hunter to illustrate how they introduced a new model of the black woman: assertive and sexy, gutsy yet tender, bereft but not downtrodden, exploited but not resentful, independent yet vulnerable. The author shows that their choice of performing style, inflection, emphasis and improvisation provided a perspective and expressiveness that profoundly affected later American popular music. -- Publishers Weekly
Blues music spawned legendary performers whose influence has been felt in many musical forms here and around the world. Until now the important role of the great women blues singers has largely gone unexplored. This book tells of the cultural and social impact of the blues during the 1920s when the genre was dominated by women, both on stage and on record. Harrison (Afro-American Studies Department, University of Maryland) writes with authority, focusing particularly on Sippie Wallace, Edith Wilson, Victoria Spivey, and Alberta Hunter as she analyzes the music and the collective black experience out of which it grew. A significant book, particularly for collections of music history, black studies, and women's studies. -- Library Journal
This collection is the first interdisciplinary volume to examine black women’s negotiation of race and gender in African American music. Contributors address black women’s activity in musical arenas that pre- and postdate the emergence of the vaudeville blues singers of the 1920s. Throughout, the authors illustrate black women’s advocacy of themselves as blacks and as women in music. Feminist? Black feminist? The editors take care to stress that each term warrants interrogation: “Black women can and have forged, often, but not always––and not everywhere the same across time––identities that are supple enough to accommodate a sense of female empowerment through ‘musicking’ in tandem with their sensitivities to black racial allegiances.”
Individual essays concern the experiences of black women in classical music and in contemporary blues, the history of black female gospel-inflected voices in the Broadway musical, and "hip-hop feminism" and its complications. Focusing on under-examined contexts, authors introduce readers to the work of a prominent gospel announcer, women’s music festivals (predominantly lesbian), and to women’s involvement in an early avant-garde black music collective. In contradistinction to a compilation of biographies, this volume critically illuminates themes of black authenticity, sexual politics, access, racial uplift through music, and the challenges of writing (black) feminist biography. Black Women and Music is a strong reminder that black women have been and are both social actors and artists contributing to African American thought.
The club is run-down and dimly lit. Onstage, a black singer croons and weeps of heartbreak, fighting back the tears. Wisps of smoke curl through the beam of a single spotlight illuminating the performer.
For any music lover, that image captures the essence of an authentic experience of the blues. In Blue Chicago, David Grazian takes us inside the world of contemporary urban blues clubs to uncover how such images are manufactured and sold to music fans and audiences. Drawing on countless nights in dozens of blues clubs throughout Chicago, Grazian shows how this quest for authenticity has transformed the very shape of the blues experience. He explores the ways in which professional and amateur musicians, club owners, and city boosters define authenticity and dish it out to tourists and bar regulars. He also tracks the changing relations between race and the blues over the past several decades, including the increased frustrations of black musicians forced to slog through the same set of overplayed blues standards for mainly white audiences night after night. In the end, Grazian finds that authenticity lies in the eye of the beholder: a nocturnal fantasy to some, an essential way of life to others, and a frustrating burden to the rest.
From B.L.U.E.S. and the Checkerboard Lounge to the Chicago Blues Festival itself, Grazian's gritty and often sobering tour in Blue Chicago shows us not what the blues is all about, but why we care so much about that question.
A member of Muddy Waters' legendary late 1940s-1950s band, Jimmy Rogers pioneered a blues guitar style that made him one of the most revered sidemen of all time. Rogers also had a significant if star-crossed career as a singer and solo artist for Chess Records, releasing the classic singles "That's All Right" and "Walking By Myself."
In Blues All Day Long, Wayne Everett Goins mines seventy-five hours of interviews with Rogers' family, collaborators, and peers to follow a life spent in the blues. Goins' account takes Rogers from recording Chess classics and barnstorming across the South to a late-in-life renaissance that included new music, entry into the Blues Hall of Fame, and high profile tours with Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones. Informed and definitive, Blues All Day Long fills a gap in twentieth century music history with the story of one of the blues' eminent figures and one of the genre's seminal bands.
Jonathan Williams’s poetry has been described as brilliant, sensuous, lyrical, quirky, suave, vital, joyful, sardonic, melodious, passionate, alive, pyrotechnic. This new, much enlarged edition of Blues and Roots displays all of the above. Williams has tramped the Appalachian Trail for decades, botanizing, jotting down specimens of authentic American speech, graffiti, superstitions, and nostrums—always curious, alert, and affectionately attentive. Blues and Roots focuses on the linguistic horizon of Appalachia in lyrics of wonder and light, of wit and comic incongruity, in found poems of the speech of his mountain neighbors. Publishers Weekly said of the earlier edition, “One of the most beautiful and evocative tributes to the Appalachians and its people yet published.” Blues and Roots is a fine celebration; Wiliams is a joyful ringmaster.
In this new collection of interviews, Steve Cushing once again invites readers into the vaults of Blues Before Sunrise, his acclaimed nationally syndicated public radio show. Icons from Memphis Minnie to the Gay Sisters stand alongside figures like schoolteacher Flossie Franklin, who helped Leroy Carr pen some of his most famous tunes; saxman Abb Locke and his buddy Two-Gun Pete, a Chicago cop notorious for killing people in the line of duty; and Scotty "The Dancing Tailor" Piper, a font of knowledge on the black entertainment scene of his day. Cushing also devotes a section to religious artists, including the world-famous choir Wings Over Jordan and their travails touring and performing in the era of segregation. Another section focuses on the jazz-influenced Bronzeville scene that gave rise to Marl Young, Andrew Tibbs, and many others while a handful of Cushing's early brushes with the likes of Little Brother Montgomery, Sippi Wallace, and Blind John Davis round out the volume.Diverse and entertaining, Blues Before Sunrise 2 adds a chorus of new voices to the fascinating history of Chicago blues.
This collection assembles the best interviews from Steve Cushing's long-running radio program Blues Before Sunrise, the nationally syndicated, award-winning program focusing on vintage blues and R&B. As both an observer and performer, Cushing has been involved with the blues scene in Chicago for decades. His candid, colorful interviews with prominent blues players, producers, and deejays reveal the behind-the-scenes world of the formative years of recorded blues. Many of these oral histories detail the careers of lesser-known but greatly influential blues performers and promoters.
The book focuses in particular on pre–World War II blues singers, performers active in 1950s Chicago, and nonperformers who contributed to the early blues world. Interviewees include Alberta Hunter, one of the earliest African American singers to transition from Chicago's Bronzeville nightlife to the international spotlight, and Ralph Bass, one of the greatest R&B producers of his era. Blues expert, writer, record producer, and cofounder of Living Blues Magazine Jim O'Neal provides the book's foreword.
The frank, funny, and unforgettable autobiography of a living legend of Chicago blues.
Simply put, Billy Boy Arnold is one of the last men standing from the Chicago blues scene’s raucous heyday. What’s more, unlike most artists in this electrifying melting pot, who were Southern transplants, Arnold—a harmonica master who shared stages with Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf, plus a singer and hitmaker in his own right who first recorded the standards “I Wish You Would” and “I Ain’t Got You”—was born right here and has lived nowhere else. This makes his perspective on Chicago blues, its players, and its locales all the rarer and all the more valuable. Arnold has witnessed musical generations come and go, from the decline of prewar country blues to the birth of the electric blues and the worldwide spread of rock and roll. Working here in collaboration with writer and fellow musician Kim Field, he gets it all down. The Blues Dream of Billy Boy Arnold is a remarkably clear-eyed testament to more than eighty years of musical love and creation, from Arnold’s adolescent quest to locate the legendary Sonny Boy Williamson, the story of how he named Bo Diddley Bo Diddley, and the ups and downs of his seven-decade recording career. Arnold’s tale—candidly told with humor, insight, and grit—is one that no fan of modern American music can afford to miss.
Recent revisionist scholarship has argued that representations by white “outsider” observers of black American music have distorted historical truths about how the blues came to be. While these scholarly arguments have generated an interesting debate concerning how the music has been framed and disseminated, they have so far only told an American story, failing to acknowledge that in the post-war era the blues had spread far beyond the borders of the United States. As Christian O’Connell shows in Blues, How Do You Do? Paul Oliver’s largely neglected scholarship—and the unique transatlantic cultural context it provides—is vital to understanding the blues.
O’Connell’s study begins with Oliver’s scholarship in his early days in London as a writer for the British jazz press and goes on to examine Oliver’s encounters with visiting blues musicians, his State Department–supported field trip to the US in 1960, and the resulting photographs
and oral history he produced, including his epic “blues narrative,” The Story of the Blues (1969). Blues, How Do You Do? thus aims to move away from debates that have been confined within the limits of national borders—or relied on clichés of British bands popularizing American music in America—to explore how Oliver’s work demonstrates that the blues became a reified ideal, constructed in opposition to the forces of modernity.
Relating the blues to American social and literary history and to Afro-American expressive culture, Houston A. Baker, Jr., offers the basis for a broader study of American culture at its "vernacular" level. He shows how the "blues voice" and its economic undertones are both central to the American narrative and characteristic of the Afro-American way of telling it.
"This was really the first time that blues music, especially Chicago/urban blues, was showcased in this way. Sadly, the festivals were not recorded professionally. So Mr. Livingston's photos are the best record of the festivals."
---Michael Jewett, longtime weekday afternoon host of 89.1 Jazz and host of "Blues & Some Uthuh Stuff"
"The photos are works of art. It is great to see photos of musicians such as Buddy Guy and James Cotton looking so young and vibrant. And it is great to see photos of blues legends such as John Lee Hooker, Roosevelt Sykes, Howlin' Wolf, and Son House, who have long since passed away."
---Peter Madcat Ruth, Grammy-winning blues harmonica player
"If Woodstock was one of the Fifty Moments That Changed Rock 'n' Roll History, as honored in Rolling Stone magazine, then the Ann Arbor Blues Festival was the coronation for the blues roots that sired rock to begin with. . . . finally we have this amazing book of Stanley Livingston's priceless images, along with Michael Erlewine's detailed chronology."
---From the foreword by Jim O'Neal, Cofounder, Living Blues Magazine
In 1969 and 1970, the first Ann Arbor Blues Festivals brought together the greatest-ever selection of blues performers---an enormous blues party that seemed to feature every big name in the world of blues.
The Ann Arbor Blues Festival was just that: a festival and celebration of city blues. It helped to mark the discovery of modern blues music (and the musicians who made that music) by a much larger audience. The festival, however, was something more than just a white audience discovering black music.
Never before had such a far-reaching list of performers been assembled, including the grandfathers of southern country blues and the hottest electric bands from Chicago. These groundbreaking festivals were the seed that grew into the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival, which was continued annually for many years. To name just a few of the dozens of artists who performed at the festival: Luther Allison, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, Hound Dog Taylor, Big Mama Thorton, T-Bone Walker, Sippie Wallace, Junior Wells, and Mighty Joe Young.
Stanley Livingston, a professional photographer from Ann Arbor, captured these legendary performances onstage---as well as the goings-on backstage. Livingston's thousands of photographs from these festivals, previously unpublished and known only to a few, are among the finest candid blues shots ever taken. Together with editor and archivist Michael Erlewine's text accompaniments, these photographs, reproduced here as high-quality duotones, comprise a visual history and important keepsake for blues aficionados everywhere.
Stanley Livingston was an award-winning photographer living and working in Ann Arbor until he passed away in 2010, after the book was released.
Michael Erlewine, also from Ann Arbor, is a renowned archivist of popular culture and founder of the All-Music Guide (allmusic.com) and editor of a number of books on blues and jazz.
Chicago blues musicians parlayed a genius for innovation and emotional honesty into a music revered around the world. As the blues evolves, it continues to provide a soundtrack to, and a dynamic commentary on, the African American experience: the legacy of slavery; historic promises and betrayals; opportunity and disenfranchisement; the ongoing struggle for freedom. Through it all, the blues remains steeped in survivorship and triumph, a music that dares to stare down life in all its injustice and iniquity and still laugh--and dance--in its face.
David Whiteis delves into how the current and upcoming Chicago blues generations carry on this legacy. Drawing on in-person interviews, Whiteis places the artists within the ongoing social and cultural reality their work reflects and helps create. Beginning with James Cotton, Eddie Shaw, and other bequeathers, he moves through an all-star council of elders like Otis Rush and Buddy Guy and on to inheritors and today's heirs apparent like Ronnie Baker Brooks, Shemekia Copeland, and Nellie "Tiger" Travis.
Insightful and wide-ranging, Blues Legacy reveals a constantly adapting art form that, whatever the challenges, maintains its links to a rich musical past.
A critical analysis of the poetic representations and legacies of five landmark blues artists
The Blues Muse: Race, Gender, and Musical Celebrity in American Poetry focuses on five key blues musicians and singers—Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Robert Johnson, and Lead Belly—and traces the ways in which these artists and their personas have been invoked and developed throughout American poetry. This study spans nearly one hundred years of literary and musical history, from the New Negro Renaissance to the present.
Emily Ruth Rutter not only examines blues musicians as literary touchstones or poetic devices, but also investigates the relationship between poetic constructions of blues icons and shifting discourses of race and gender. Rutter’s nuanced analysis is clear, compelling, and rich in critical assessments of these writers’ portraits of the musical artists, attending to their strategies and oversights.
Blues of a Lifetime is essential reading for people interested in suspense novelist Cornell Woolrich, author of Rear Window. Woolrich’s autobiography includes accounts of his working methods, his family and home, memories of childhood, college experience, and his philosophy of life.
In The Blues of Heaven, Barbara Ras delivers her characteristic subjects with new daring that both rattles and beguiles. Here are poems of grief over her brother’s death; doors to an idiosyncratic working-class childhood among Polish immigrants; laments for nature and politics out of kilter. Ras portrays the climate crisis, guns out of control, the reckless injustice and ignorance of the United States government. At the same time, her poems nimbly focus on particulars—these facts, these consequences—bringing the wreckage of unfathomable harm home with immediacy and integrity. Though her subjects may be dire, Ras also weaves her wise humor throughout, moving deftly from sardonic to whimsical to create an expansive, ardent, and memorable book.
British blues fan Mike Leadbitter launched the magazine Blues Unlimited in 1963. The groundbreaking publication fueled the then-nascent, now-legendary blues revival that reclaimed seminal figures like Son House and Skip James from obscurity. Throughout its history, Blues Unlimited heightened the literacy of blues fans, documented the latest news and career histories of countless musicians, and set the standard for revealing long-form interviews. Conducted by Bill Greensmith, Mike Leadbitter, Mike Rowe, John Broven, and others, and covering a who's who of blues masters, these essential interviews from Blues Unlimited shed light on their subjects while gleaning colorful detail from the rough and tumble of blues history. Here is Freddie King playing a string of one-nighters so grueling it destroys his car; five-year-old Fontella Bass gigging at St. Louis funeral homes; and Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup rising from life in a packing crate to music stardom. Here, above all, is an eyewitness history of the blues written in neon lights and tears, an American epic of struggle and transcendence, of Saturday night triumphs and Sunday morning anonymity, of clean picking and dirty deals. Featuring interviews with: Fontella Bass, Ralph Bass, Fred Below, Juke Boy Bonner, Roy Brown, Albert Collins, James Cotton, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, Joe Dean, Henry Glover, L.C. Green, Dr. Hepcat, Red Holloway, Louise Johnson, Floyd Jones, Moody Jones, Freddie King, Big Maceo Merriweather, Walter Mitchell, Louis Myers, Johnny Otis, Snooky Pryor, Sparks Brothers, Jimmy Thomas, Jimmy Walker, and Baby Boy Warren.
Beginning in the late 1950s, an influential cadre of young, white, mostly middle-class British men were consuming and appropriating African-American blues music, using blues tropes in their own music and creating a network of admirers and emulators that spanned the Atlantic. This cross-fertilization helped create a commercially successful rock idiom that gave rise to some of the most famous British groups of the era, including The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, Eric Clapton, and Led Zeppelin. What empowered these white, middle-class British men to identify with and claim aspects of the musical idiom of African-American blues musicians? The British Blues Network examines the role of British narratives of masculinity and power in the postwar era of decolonization and national decline that contributed to the creation of this network, and how its members used the tropes, vocabulary, and mythology of African-American blues traditions to forge their own musical identities.
"No one has written this way about music in a long, long time. Lucid, insightful, with real spiritual, political, intellectual, and emotional grasp of the whole picture. A book about why music matters, and how, and to whom."
—Dave Marsh, author of Louie, Louie and Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story
"This book is urgently needed: a comprehensive look at the various forms of black popular music, both as music and as seen in a larger social context. No one can do this better than Craig Werner."
—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University
"[Werner has] mastered the extremely difficult art of writing about music as both an aesthetic and social force that conveys, implies, symbolizes, and represents ideas as well as emotion, but without reducing its complexities and ambiguities to merely didactic categories."
—African American Review
A Change Is Gonna Come is the story of more than four decades of enormously influential black music, from the hopeful, angry refrains of the Freedom movement, to the slick pop of Motown; from the disco inferno to the Million Man March; from Woodstock's "Summer of Love" to the war in Vietnam and the race riots that inspired Marvin Gaye to write "What's Going On."
Originally published in 1998, A Change Is Gonna Come drew the attention of scholars and general readers alike. This new edition, featuring four new and updated chapters, will reintroduce Werner's seminal study of black music to a new generation of readers.
Craig Werner is Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin, and author of many books, including Playing the Changes: From Afro-Modernism to the Jazz Impulse and Up Around the Bend: An Oral History of Creedence Clearwater Revival. His most recent book is Higher Ground: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and the Rise and Fall of American Soul.
Through revealing portraits of selected local artists and slice-of-life vignettes drawn from the city’s pubs and lounges, Chicago Blues encapsulates the sound and spirit of the blues as it is lived today. As a committed participant in the Chicago blues scene for more than a quarter century, David Whiteis draws on years of his observations and extensive interviews to paint a full picture of the Chicago blues world, both on and off the stage.
In addition to portraits of blues artists he has personally known and worked with, Whiteis takes readers on a tour of venues like East of Ryan and the Starlight Lounge, home to artists such as Jumpin’ Willie Cobbs, Willie D., and Harmonica Khan. He tells the stories behind the lives of past pioneers, including Junior Wells, pianist Sunnyland Slim, and harpist Big Walter Horton, whose music reflects the universal concerns with love, loss, and yearning that continue to keep the blues so vital for so many.
In 1987 photographer Sandra Dyas moved to Iowa City and began documenting the area’s vibrant live music scene, with its distinctive combination of folk, blues, roots/Americana, and rock sounds. The sixty photos in Down to the River capture her twenty years of photographing live music venues and shooting portraits of musicians in and around the city, resulting in a collection of images as compassionate and honest as the music itself.
Dyas’s photographs present both the sweaty intensity of live performances and the more contemplative moments of individual portraits. They are complemented by Chris Offutt’s empathetic essay, which also encapsulates the experience of connecting with a new home through its music. A companion CD with eighteen tracks by Iowa’s finest singer/songwriters, including Dave Moore, Greg Brown, Bo Ramsey, David Zollo, and Pieta Brown, add up to an unmatched perspective on Iowa music and musicians.
1. Iowa Crawl, Joe Price
2. Poor Back Slider, Greg Brown
3. Parnell, David Zollo
4. #807, Pieta Brown
5. Wheels of Steel, Radoslav Lorkovic
6. Down to the River, Dave Moore
7. Lucy and Andy Drive to Arkansas, Kevin Gordon
8. Chuck Brown, Mike and Amy Finders
9. Nobody But You, Joe Price
10. Earleton, BeJae Fleming
11. Ceremonial Child, High and Lonesome
12. Sidetrack Lounge, Bo Ramsey
13. On the Edge, Pieta Brown
14. One Wrong Turn, Greg Brown
15. Not in Iowa, Kelly Pardekooper
16. Living in a Cornfield, Bo Ramsey
17. ’57 Chevy, Tom Jessen’s Dimestore Outfit
18. Roll on John, the Pines
he popular Encyclopedia of the Blues, first published by the University of Arkansas Press in 1992 and reprinted six times, has become an indispensable reference source for all involved with or intrigued by the music. The work alphabetizes hundreds of biographical entries, presenting detailed examinations of the performers and of the instruments, trends, recordings, and producers who have created and popularized this truly American art form.
The first book-length biography of an influential country/soul legend whose songs have been recorded by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan.
Get a Shot of Rhythm and Blues chronicles the rise, fall, and rebirth of Arthur Alexander, an African American singer-songwriter whose music infuenced many of the rock and soul musicians of the 1960s. Although his name is not well known today, Alexander's musical legacy is vast. His 1962 song "You Better Move On" was the first hit to emerge from the fedgling Muscle Shoals FAME studio in Alabama, and his fusion of country and soul and his heartfelt vocals on such songs as "Anna (Go to Him)" and "Every Day I Have to Cry" were revered by musicians including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan, all of whom recorded his songs.
Alexander's story is a tragic one, with a brief, redemptive finale. His meteoric rise after the release of "You Better Move On" gave way to lean years caused both by his drug and alcohol abuse and by the mishandling of his career by producers and managers. In 1977, he quit the music business, but his music lived on. In 1992, Alexander returned to
the studio and recorded the critically praised album Lonely Just Like Me. Just three months after the album's release in March 1993, he suffered a heart attack in the offices of his music publisher in Nashville and died three days later.
In telling Alexander's story, Richard Younger captures the burgeoning music scenes in Muscle Shoals and Nashville during the 1960s and 1970s and recovers the life of a fascinating musician whose influence was international. Younger's account is enriched by his interviews with more than 200 artists, family members, and friends--such as Rick Hall, Billy Sherrill, Charlie McCoy, Chuck Jackson, Gerry Marsden, and Kris Kristofferson--and includes an abundance of never-before-seen photographs.
Named one of the world’s great blues-rock guitarists by Rolling Stone, Mike Bloomfield (1943–1981) remains beloved by fans forty years after his untimely death. Taking readers backstage, onstage, and into the recording studio with this legendary virtuoso, David Dann tells the riveting stories behind Bloomfield’s work in the seminal Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the mesmerizing Electric Flag, as well as on the Super Session album with Al Kooper and Stephen Stills, Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, and soundtrack work with Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson.
In vivid chapters drawn from meticulous research, including more than seventy interviews with the musician’s friends, relatives, and band members, music historian David Dann brings to life Bloomfield’s worlds, from his comfortable upbringing in a Jewish family on Chicago’s North Shore to the gritty taverns and raucous nightclubs where this self-taught guitarist helped transform the sound of contemporary blues and rock music. With scenes that are as electrifying as Bloomfield’s solos, this is the story of a life lived at full volume.
A multidisciplinary exploration of the ways that African American “hot” music emerged into the American cultural mainstream in the nineteenth century and ultimately dominated both American music and literature from 1920 to 1929
Exploring the deep and enduring relationship between music and literature, Hot Music, Ragmentation, and the Bluing of American Literature examines the diverse ways in which African American “hot” music influenced American culture—particularly literature—in early twentieth century America. Steven C. Tracy provides a history of the fusion of African and European elements that formed African American “hot” music, and considers how terms like ragtime, jazz, and blues developed their own particular meanings for American music and society. He draws from the fields of literature, literary criticism, cultural anthropology, American studies, and folklore to demonstrate how blues as a musical and poetic form has been a critical influence on American literature.
Hot Music, Ragmentation, and the Bluing of American Literature begins by highlighting instances in which American writers, including Herman Melville, Stephen Crane, and Gertrude Stein, use African American culture and music in their work, and then characterizes the social context of the Jazz Age, discussing how African American music reflected the wild abandon of the time. Tracy focuses on how a variety of schools of early twentieth century writers, from modernists to members of the Harlem Renaissance to dramatists and more, used their connections with “hot” music to give their own work meaning.
Tracy’s extensive and detailed understanding of how African American “hot” music operates has produced a fresh and original perspective on its influence on mainstream American literature and culture. An experienced blues musician himself, Tracy draws on his performance background to offer an added dimension to his analysis. Where another blues scholar might only analyze blues language, Tracy shows how the language is actually performed.
Hot Music, Ragmentation, and the Bluing of American Literature is the first book to offer such a refreshingly broad interdisciplinary vision of the influence of African American “hot” music on American literature. It is an essential addition to the library of serious scholars of American and African American literature and culture and blues aficionados alike.
Eric Weisbard Duke University Press, 2023
Most listeners first heard “Hound Dog” when Elvis Presley’s single topped the pop, country, and R&B charts in 1956. But some fans already knew the song for Big Mama Thornton’s earlier original recording, a giant hit but exclusively R&B. In Hound Dog Eric Weisbard examines the racial, commercial, and cultural ramifications of Elvis’s appropriation of a Black woman’s anthem. He rethinks the history and influences of rock music in light of Rolling Stone replacing Presley’s “Hound Dog” with Thornton’s version in its “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list. Taking readers from Presley and Thornton to Patti Page’s “Doggie in the Window,” the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” and other dog ditties, Weisbard uses “Hound Dog” to reflect on one of rock’s fundamental dilemmas: the whiteness of the wail.
Was the first white European blues singer an Irish woman? What links The Rolling Stones to the birth of the Northern Ireland civil rights movement? Did the state suppress the work of a key countercultural director because his film was shot in Belfast in 1965?
This book provides the answers in an engaging and dynamic reconsideration of Belfast’s long-ignored contributions to the popular music and cultural politics of the 1960s. In an expansive socio-cultural history, Noel McLaughlin and Joanna Braniff explore how popular music engaged with and influenced the global cultural and political currents of the decade.
The popular history of Northern Ireland has been overshadowed by the violence of the Troubles. But How Belfast Got the Blues offers a corrective, reconsidering the period before 1969 and arguing that popular music in Northern Ireland was central to the politics of the time, in ways not previously understood or explored. In addition to big names like Van Morrison and Rory Gallagher, the authors highlight lesser-known artists—notably Ottilie Patterson, Ireland's first blues singer—and restore them to music history. By intertwining politics, culture, and key personalities, the authors reexamine this radical decade and the complex but essential relationship between music and identity in a place where it could mean the difference between life and death.
Humming the Blues
Cass Dalglish Calyx, 2008 Library of Congress PS3554.A4325H86 2008 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
The first signed literature in the world is on cuneiform tablets written in 2350 BCE in Sumeria, and it is by a woman. Dr. Cass Dalglish translated the cuneiform of Enheduanna. She was a powerful Sumerian prince in 2350 BCE and her work, Nin-me-sar-ra, begged the god Inanna (who was the first to enter the underworld and return from the dead) for help overcoming an usurper.
Adopting a jazz aesthetic, Dalglish improvises on her translations; re-examining the cuneiform through feminist lenses. Enheduanna is not just any writer, she is the first identifiable poet to sign her writing. Lyrically translated from the original cuneiform by Cass Dalglish, the relevance of Enheduanna’s Song to Inanna echoes across millennia as a testament to the timeless power of women’s literature. Giving fresh interpretations to the originals, these poems form rhythmic riffs—like jazz musical improvisations—that carry the reader back to the lands of ancient Iraq during the time when gods were women.
A major figure in American blues and folk music, Big Bill Broonzy (1903–1958) left his Arkansas Delta home after World War I, headed north, and became the leading Chicago bluesman of the 1930s. His success came as he fused traditional rural blues with the electrified sound that was beginning to emerge in Chicago. This, however, was just one step in his remarkable journey: Big Bill was constantly reinventing himself, both in reality and in his retellings of it. Bob Riesman’s groundbreaking biography tells the compelling life story of a lost figure from the annals of music history.
I Feel So Good traces Big Bill’s career from his rise as a nationally prominent blues star, including his historic 1938 appearance at Carnegie Hall, to his influential role in the post-World War II folk revival, when he sang about racial injustice alongside Pete Seeger and Studs Terkel. Riesman’s account brings the reader into the jazz clubs and concert halls of Europe, as Big Bill's overseas tours in the 1950s ignited the British blues-rock explosion of the 1960s. Interviews with Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, and Ray Davies reveal Broonzy’s profound impact on the British rockers who would follow him and change the course of popular music.
Along the way, Riesman details Big Bill’s complicated and poignant personal saga: he was married three times and became a father at the very end of his life to a child half a world away. He also brings to light Big Bill’s final years, when he first lost his voice, then his life, to cancer, just as his international reputation was reaching its peak. Featuring many rarely seen photos, I Feel So Good will be the definitive account of Big Bill Broonzy’s life and music.
The rich, complex lives of African Americans in Texas were often neglected by the mainstream media, which historically seldom ventured into Houston's Fourth Ward, San Antonio's East Side, South Dallas, or the black neighborhoods in smaller cities. When Bill Minutaglio began writing for Texas newspapers in the 1970s, few large publications had more than a token number of African American journalists, and they barely acknowledged the things of lasting importance to the African American community. Though hardly the most likely reporter—as a white, Italian American transplant from New York City—for the black Texas beat, Minutaglio was drawn to the African American heritage, seeking its soul in churches, on front porches, at juke joints, and anywhere else that people would allow him into their lives. His nationally award-winning writing offered many Americans their first deeper understanding of Texas's singular, complicated African American history.
This eclectic collection gathers the best of Minutaglio's writing about the soul of black Texas. He profiles individuals both unknown and famous, including blues legends Lightnin' Hopkins, Amos Milburn, Robert Shaw, and Dr. Hepcat. He looks at neglected, even intentionally hidden, communities. And he wades into the musical undercurrent that touches on African Americans' joys, longings, and frustrations, and the passing of generations. Minutaglio's stories offer an understanding of the sweeping evolution of music, race, and justice in Texas. Moved forward by the musical heartbeat of the blues and defined by the long shadow of racism, the stories measure how far Texas has come . . . or still has to go.
Born 130 years ago in the heart of Mississippi, Charlie Patton (c. 1891–1934) is considered by many to be a father of the Delta blues. With his bullish baritone voice and his fluid slide guitar touch, Patton established songs like “Pony Blues,” “A Spoonful Blues,” and “High Water Everywhere” in the blues lexicon and, through his imitators, in American music. But over the decades, his contributions to blues music have been overshadowed in popularity by those of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and other mid-century bluesmen and women who’ve experienced a resurgence in their music. King of the Delta Blues Singers, originally published in 1988, began a small renaissance in Patton and blues research. And now, with the wide availability of Patton’s complete discography on CD and as digital downloads, this completely revised second edition continues the story of Charlie Patton’s legacy.
Gayle Dean Wardlow and the late Stephen Calt (1946–2010) originally probed Patton’s career in the Mississippi Delta, his early performances and recordings, and his musical legacy that continues to influence today’s guitarists and performers, including such musicians as Jack White and Larkin Poe. For this second edition, Wardlow and Edward Komara refined the text and rewrote major sections, updating them with new scholarship on Patton and Delta blues. And finally, Komara has added a new afterword bringing Patton into the contemporary blues conversation and introducing numerous musical examples for the modern researcher and musician.
The second edition of King of the Delta Blues Singers will further cement Patton’s legacy among important blues musicians, and it will be of interest to anyone absorbed in the beginnings of the Delta blues and music biographies.
In A Language of Song, Samuel Charters—one of the pioneering collectors of African American music—writes of a trip to West Africa where he found “a gathering of cultures and a continuing history that lay behind the flood of musical expression [he] encountered everywhere . . . from Brazil to Cuba, to Trinidad, to New Orleans, to the Bahamas, to dance halls of west Louisiana and the great churches of Harlem.” In this book, Charters takes readers along to those and other places, including Jamaica and the Georgia Sea Islands, as he recounts experiences from a half-century spent following, documenting, recording, and writing about the Africa-influenced music of the United States, Brazil, and the Caribbean.
Each of the book’s fourteen chapters is a vivid rendering of a particular location that Charters visited. While music is always his focus, the book is filled with details about individuals, history, landscape, and culture. In first-person narratives, Charters relates voyages including a trip to the St. Louis home of the legendary ragtime composer Scott Joplin and the journey to West Africa, where he met a man who performed an hours-long song about the Europeans’ first colonial conquests in Gambia. Throughout the book, Charters traces the persistence of African musical culture despite slavery, as well as the influence of slaves’ songs on subsequent musical forms. In evocative prose, he relates a lifetime of travel and research, listening to brass bands in New Orleans; investigating the emergence of reggae, ska, and rock-steady music in Jamaica’s dancehalls; and exploring the history of Afro-Cuban music through the life of the jazz musician Bebo Valdés. A Language of Song is a unique expedition led by one of music’s most observant and well-traveled explorers.
A swing note is, to the listener of the rhythm, an unexpected note, and it is the spark of life in jazz and its relatives. Whether playing the standards or the most experimental piece, it is how a musician handles these notes—fearlessly or safely—that determines the fate of the performance. Howard Reich’s critical writing is similarly unexpected and fearless, and Let Freedom Swing is a collection of the articles from the past three decades that best capture this spirit.Each section of Let Freedom Swing composes a suite, focusing on either a person, place, or scene. Reich gives new life to the standards with his profiles and elegies for such giants as Gershwin, Ellington, and Sinatra. A profile of Louis Armstrong brings out the often angry side of Satchmo but also reveals a more remarkable musician and human being.His open-mindedness makes Reich a particularly astute observer of the experimental and new, from Ornette Coleman to Chicago experimentalist Ken Vandermark. And his observations about street music open our ears to the songs of everyday life. Reich’s fearlessness is evident in his writing about daunting subjects, such as the New Orleans music scene after Katrina, the lost legacy of jazz in Panama, and the complicated legacy of "race music" in America.Howard Reich combines a deep enthusiasm for music, a breadth of knowledge, and an ability to share his world with his readers, and Let Freedom Swing is essential reading for anyone interested in the continuing vitality of jazz, gospel, blues, and American music in general.
Frank Marshall Davis was a prominent poet, journalist, jazz critic, and civil rights activist on the Chicago and Atlanta scene from the 1920s through 1940s. He was an intimate of Langston Hughes and Richard Wright and an influential editor at the Chicago Evening Bulletin, the Chicago Whip, the Chicago Star, and the Atlanta World. He renounced his writing career in 1948 and moved to Hawaii, forgotten until the Black Arts Movement rediscovered him in the 1960s.
Because of his early self-exile from the literary limelight, Davis's life and work have been shrouded in mystery. Livin' the Blues offers us a chance to rediscover this talented poet and writer and stands as an important example of black autobiography, similar in form, style, and message to those of Langston Hughes and Richard Wright.
"Both a social commentary and intellectual exploration into African American life in the twentieth century."—Charles Vincent, Atlanta History
Mamie Smith's 1920 recording of ""Crazy Blues"" is commonly thought to signify the beginning of commercial attention to blues music and culture, but by that year more than 450 other blues titles had already appeared in sheet music and on recordings. In this examination of early popular blues, Peter C. Muir traces the genre's early history and the highly creative interplay between folk and popular forms, focusing especially on the roles W. C. Handy played in both blues music and the music business.
Long Lost Blues exposes for the first time the full scope and importance of early popular blues to mainstream American culture in the early twentieth century. Closely analyzing sheet music and other print sources that have previously gone unexamined, Muir revises our understanding of the evolution and sociology of blues at its inception.
Mister Satan’s Apprentice is the history of one of music’s most fascinating collaborations, between Adam Gussow, a young graduate school dropout and harmonica player, and Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee, a guitarist and underground blues legend who had originally made his name as “Five Fingers Magee.”
In a career that took him from the cotton fields of East Texas to the concert stage at Carnegie Hall and beyond, Lightnin’ Hopkins became one of America’s greatest bluesmen, renowned for songs whose topics effortlessly ranged from his African American roots to space exploration, the Vietnam War, and lesbianism, performed in a unique, eccentric, and spontaneous style of guitar playing that inspired a whole generation of rock guitarists. Hopkins’s music directly and indirectly influenced an amazing range of artists, including Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Tom Waits, and Bob Dylan, as well as bands such as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and ZZ Top, with whom Hopkins performed.
Mojo Hand follows Lightin’ Hopkins’s life and music from the acoustic country blues that he began performing in childhood, through the rise of 1950s rock ’n’ roll, which nearly derailed his career, to his reinvention and international success as a pioneer of electric folk blues from the 1960s to the 1980s. The authors draw on 130 vivid oral histories, as well as extensive archival and secondary sources, to provide the fullest account available of the development of Hopkins’s music; his idiosyncratic business practices, such as shunning professional bookers, managers, and publicists; and his durable and indelible influence on modern roots, blues, rock ’n’ roll, singer-songwriter, and folk music. Mojo Hand celebrates the spirit and style, intelligence and wit, and confounding musical mystique of a bluesman who shaped modern American music like no one else.
Steve Cushing, the award-winning host of the nationally syndicated public radio staple Blues Before Sunrise, has spent more than thirty years observing and participating in the Chicago blues scene. In the expanded second edition of Pioneers of the Blues Revival, Cushing adds new interviewees to the roster of prominent white researchers and enthusiasts whose advocacy spearheaded the blues' crossover into the mainstream starting in the 1960s. Rare interview material with experts like Mack McCormick supplements dialogues with Paul Garon, Gayle Dean Wardlow, Paul Oliver, Sam Charters, and others in renewing lively debates and providing first-hand accounts of the era and movement. Throughout, the participants chronicle lifetimes spent loving, finding, collecting, reissuing, and producing records. They also recount relationships with essential blues musicians like Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Skip James, and Bukka White—connections that allowed the two races to learn how to talk to each other in a still-segregated world.
Steve Cushing, the award-winning host of the nationally syndicated public radio staple Blues before Sunrise, has spent over thirty years observing and participating in the Chicago blues scene. In Pioneers of the Blues Revival, he interviews many of the prominent white researchers and enthusiasts whose advocacy spearheaded the blues' crossover into the mainstream starting in the 1960s.
Opinionated and territorial, the American, British, and French interviewees provide fascinating first-hand accounts of the era and movement. Experts including Paul Oliver, Gayle Dean Wardlow, Sam Charters, Ray Flerledge, Paul Oliver, Richard K. Spottswood, and Pete Whelan chronicle in their own words their obsessive early efforts at cataloging blues recordings and retrace lifetimes spent loving, finding, collecting, reissuing, and producing records. They and nearly a dozen others recount relationships with blues musicians, including the discoveries of prewar bluesmen Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Skip James, and Bukka White, and the reintroduction of these musicians and many others to new generations of listeners. The accounts describe fieldwork in the South, renew lively debates, and tell of rehearsals in Muddy Waters's basement and randomly finding Lightning Hopkins's guitar in a pawn shop.
Blues scholar Barry Lee Pearson provides a critical and historical framework for the interviews in an introduction.
In this thorough and detailed study, Richard Douglass-Chin examines collectively for the first time the autobiographies of nineteenth-century African American women evangelists, along with their eighteenth-century forerunner "Belinda." By studying how black women evangelists employed dialogue created by socioeconomic conditions, the author shows how their writings form the groundwork for a contemporary womanist literature rooted in spirituality. Arguing that the writings have their own unique figurations and forms that develop and alter over time, Douglass-Chin claims that the changing black female spiritual narrative traces an important line in the ongoing traditions of black women's writing, a line that has only now begun to be reclaimed and validated. Through references to the writings of black male autobiographers Frederick Douglass, Richard Allen, Daniel Payne, and John Jea as well as the works of white female autobiographers Harriet Livermore and Phoebe Palmer, Douglass-Chin is able to make valuable comparisons.
Preacher Woman Sings the Blues begins with the study of black evangelists Belinda, Jarena Lee, and Zilpha Elaw, continuing with Rebecca Cox Jackson, Sojourner Truth, Julia Foote, Amanda Smith, Elizabeth, and Virginia Broughton. The author's discussion of Zora Neale Hurston focuses on how Hurston operates as a connection between early black women evangelist writers and black women writing in America today. He ends with the works of Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Toni Cade Bambara.
By examining the early traditions prefiguring contemporary African American women's texts and the impact that race and gender have on them, Douglass-Chin shows how the nineteenth-century black women's works are still of utmost importance to many African American women writers today. Preacher Woman Sings the Blues makes a valuable contribution to literary criticism and theoretical analysis and will be welcomed by scholars and students alike.
This compilation of essays takes the study of the blues to a welcome new level. Distinguished scholars and well-established writers from such diverse backgrounds as musicology, anthropology, musicianship, and folklore join together to examine blues as literature, music, personal expression, and cultural product. Ramblin' on My Mind contains pieces on Ella Fitzgerald, Son House, and Robert Johnson; on the styles of vaudeville, solo guitar, and zydeco; on a comparison of blues and African music; on blues nicknames; and on lyric themes of disillusionment.
Contributors are Lynn Abbott, James Bennighof, Katharine Cartwright, Andrew M. Cohen, David Evans, Bob Groom, Elliott Hurwitt, Gerhard Kubik, John Minton, Luigi Monge, and Doug Seroff.
Red, White, and Blues, a new anthology from the award-winning editors of Like Thunder: Poets Respond to Violence in America and Vespers: Contemporary American Poems of Religion and Spirituality, offers a chorus of contemporary American poets on the idea of liberty, democracy, patriotism, and the American Dream;a twenty-first-century "Song of Myself” for the entire country.
The poems in Red, White, and Blues reflect our collective memory—from icons of pop culture to national disasters and times of unrest. Yet they are not simply reflections of the headline news or political diatribes of the day; instead, they provide roadmaps of American history—roadmaps of where we’ve been, who we are, and where we’re going as a nation.
Poets as diverse as Martín Espada and Paisley Rekdal, J. P. Dancing Bear and Vivian Shipley seek to answer questions that resonate within the heart of our national identity—what does it mean to be an American? What is the American Dream? How does one define patriotism? Regardless of ethnicity, gender, or class, each poet’s answer to such questions proves that our experiences unite us more than they divide us.
Red, White, and Blues is an ambitious collection of the finest contemporary poetry on the subject of America and the indefatigable spirit of its citizens. Its poems don’t pull punches, nor do they celebrate without cause. They show spirit and excitement, outrage and joy, solemnity and ambiguity—all reflections of our wonderfully diverse nation.
All too often an incident or accident, such as the eruption in Crown Heights with its legacy of bitterness and recrimination, thrusts Black-Jewish relations into the news. A volley of discussion follows, but little in the way of progress or enlightenment results--and this is how things will remain until we radically revise the way we think about the complex interactions between African Americans and Jews. A Right to Sing the Blues offers just such a revision.
"Black-Jewish relations," Jeffrey Melnick argues, has mostly been a way for American Jews to talk about their ambivalent racial status, a narrative collectively constructed at critical moments, when particular conflicts demand an explanation. Remarkably flexible, this narrative can organize diffuse materials into a coherent story that has a powerful hold on our imagination. Melnick elaborates this idea through an in-depth look at Jewish songwriters, composers, and perfomers who made "Black" music in the first few decades of this century. He shows how Jews such as George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Al Jolson, and others were able to portray their "natural" affinity for producing "Black" music as a product of their Jewishness while simultaneously depicting Jewishness as a stable white identity. Melnick also contends that this cultural activity competed directly with Harlem Renaissance attempts to define Blackness.
Moving beyond the narrow focus of advocacy group politics, this book complicates and enriches our understanding of the cultural terrain shared by African Americans and Jews.
Mississippi bluesman Robert Johnson died young and left behind just twenty-nine recorded songs. But the legacy, legends, and lore surrounding him loom large in American music history.
Merging literary analysis with cultural criticism and biographical study, Patricia R. Schroeder explores Johnson's ongoing role as a cultural icon. Schroeder's detailed analysis engages key images and myths about the blues musician (such as the Faustian crossroads exchange of his soul for guitar virtuosity). Navigating the many competing interpretations that swirl around him, Schroeder reveals the cultural purposes served by the stories and the storytellers. The result is a fascinating examination of the relationships among Johnson's life, its subsequent portrayals, and the forces that drove the representations.
Offering penetrating insights into both Johnson and the society that perpetuates him, Robert Johnson, Mythmaking, and Contemporary American Culture is essential reading for blues fans and cultural critics interested in a foundational musical figure.
In this book, Robert L. Stone follows the sound of steel guitar into the music-driven Pentecostal worship of two related churches: the House of God and the Church of the Living God. A rare outsider who has gained the trust of members and musicians inside the church, Stone uses nearly two decades of research, interviews, and fieldwork to tell the story of a vibrant musical tradition that straddles sacred and secular contexts.
Most often identified with country and western bands, steel guitar is almost unheard of in African American churches--except for the House of God and the Church of the Living God, where it has been part of worship since the 1930s. Sacred Steel traces the tradition through four generations of musicians and in some two hundred churches extending across the country from Florida to California, Michigan to Alabama. Presenting detailed portraits of musical pioneers such as brothers Troman and Willie Eason and contemporary masters such as Chuck Campbell, Glenn Lee, and Robert Randolph, Stone expertly outlines the fundamental tensions between sacred steel musicians and church hierarchy.
In this thorough analysis of the tradition, Stone explores the function of the music in church meetings and its effect on the congregations. He also examines recent developments such as the growing number of female performers, the commercial appeal of the music, and younger musicians' controversial move of the music from the church to secular contexts.
Who was the greatest of all American guitarists? You probably didn’t name Gary Davis, but many of his musical contemporaries considered him without peer. Bob Dylan called Davis “one of the wizards of modern music.” Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead—who took lessons with Davis—claimed his musical ability “transcended any common notion of a bluesman.” And the folklorist Alan Lomax called him “one of the really great geniuses of American instrumental music.” But you won’t find Davis alongside blues legends Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Despite almost universal renown among his contemporaries, Davis lives today not so much in his own work but through covers of his songs by Dylan, Jackson Browne, and many others, as well as in the untold number of students whose lives he influenced.
The first biography of Davis, Say No to the Devil restores “the Rev’s” remarkable story. Drawing on extensive research and interviews with many of Davis’s former students, Ian Zack takes readers through Davis’s difficult beginning as the blind son of sharecroppers in the Jim Crow South to his decision to become an ordained Baptist minister and his move to New York in the early 1940s, where he scraped out a living singing and preaching on street corners and in storefront churches in Harlem. There, he gained entry into a circle of musicians that included, among many others, Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, and Dave Van Ronk. But in spite of his tremendous musical achievements, Davis never gained broad recognition from an American public that wasn’t sure what to make of his trademark blend of gospel, ragtime, street preaching, and the blues. His personal life was also fraught, troubled by struggles with alcohol, women, and deteriorating health.
Zack chronicles this remarkable figure in American music, helping us to understand how he taught and influenced a generation of musicians.
Winner of the 2004 C. Hugh Holman Award from the Society for the Study of Southern Literature.
Seems Like Murder Here offers a revealing new account of the blues tradition. Far from mere laments about lost loves and hard times, the blues emerge in this provocative study as vital responses to spectacle lynchings and the violent realities of African American life in the Jim Crow South. With brilliant interpretations of both classic songs and literary works, from the autobiographies of W. C. Handy, David Honeyboy Edwards, and B. B. King to the poetry of Langston Hughes and the novels of Zora Neale Hurston, Seems Like Murder Here will transform our understanding of the blues and its enduring power.
In Segregating Sound, Karl Hagstrom Miller argues that the categories that we have inherited to think and talk about southern music bear little relation to the ways that southerners long played and heard music. Focusing on the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth, Miller chronicles how southern music—a fluid complex of sounds and styles in practice—was reduced to a series of distinct genres linked to particular racial and ethnic identities. The blues were African American. Rural white southerners played country music. By the 1920s, these depictions were touted in folk song collections and the catalogs of “race” and “hillbilly” records produced by the phonograph industry. Such links among race, region, and music were new. Black and white artists alike had played not only blues, ballads, ragtime, and string band music, but also nationally popular sentimental ballads, minstrel songs, Tin Pan Alley tunes, and Broadway hits.
In a cultural history filled with musicians, listeners, scholars, and business people, Miller describes how folklore studies and the music industry helped to create a “musical color line,” a cultural parallel to the physical color line that came to define the Jim Crow South. Segregated sound emerged slowly through the interactions of southern and northern musicians, record companies that sought to penetrate new markets across the South and the globe, and academic folklorists who attempted to tap southern music for evidence about the history of human civilization. Contending that people’s musical worlds were defined less by who they were than by the music that they heard, Miller challenges assumptions about the relation of race, music, and the market.
Taking up where he left off with Kinds of Blue (The Ohio State University Press, 2004), Jürgen E. Grandt seeks to explore in depth some of the implications of the modernist jazz aesthetic resonating in the African American literary tradition. Grandt’s new book, Shaping Words to Fit the Soul:The Southern Ritual Grounds of Afro-Modernism, probes the ways in which modernism’s key themes of fragmentation, alienation, and epistemology complicate the mapping of the American South as an “authenticating” locus of African American narrative. Rather than being a site of authentication, the South constitutes a symbolic territory that actually resists the very narrative strategies deployed to capture it.
The figurative ritual grounds traversed in texts by Frederick Douglass, Jean Toomer, Richard Wright, and Tayari Jones reveal Afro-modernism as modernism with a historical conscience. Since literary Afro-modernism recurrently points to music as a symbolic territory of liberatory potential, this study also visits a variety of soundscapes, from the sorrow songs of the slaves to the hip-hop of the Dirty South, and from the blues of W. C. Handy to the southern rock of the Allman Brothers Band.
Afro-modernism as modernism with a historical conscience thus suggests a reconfiguration of southern ritual grounds as situated in time and mind rather than time and place, and the ramifications of this process extend far above and beyond the Mason-Dixon Line.
This collection of essays and poems about the influence of jazz on writing and culture in this country, an expanded edition of the 1986 publication, is a rewarding volume for all those entranced by jazz. Carruth brings his considerable poetic and literary sensibilities to bear on a topic very near to his heart: "Those who are devoted primarily to jazz, to poetry, to all the arts, are also those who contribute more intelligently than others to our practical and moral, political and social, advancement."
"Exceptionally illuminating and philosophically sophisticated."
---Ted Cohen, Professor of Philosophy, University of Chicago
"In this audacious and long-awaited book, Joel Rudinow takes seriously a range of interrelated issues that most music theorizing is embarrassed to tackle. People often ask me about music and spirituality. With Soul Music, I can finally recommend a book that offers genuine philosophical insight into the topic."
---Theodore Gracyk, Professor of Philosophy, Minnesota State University Moorhead
The idea is as strange as it is commonplace---that the "soul" in soul music is more than just a name, that somehow the music truly taps into something essential rooted in the spiritual notion of the soul itself. Or is it strange? From the civil rights movement and beyond, soul music has played a key, indisputable role in moments of national healing. Of course, American popular music has long been embroiled in controversies over its spiritual purity (or lack thereof). But why? However easy it might seem to dismiss these ideas and debates as quaint and merely symbolic, they persist.
In Soul Music: Tracking the Spiritual Roots of Pop from Plato to Motown, Joel Rudinow, a philosopher of music, takes these peculiar notions and exposes them to serious scrutiny. How, Rudinow asks, does music truly work upon the soul, individually and collectively? And what does it mean to say that music can be spiritually therapeutic or toxic? This illuminating, meditative exploration leads from the metaphysical idea of the soul to the legend of Robert Johnson to the philosophies of Plato and Leo Strauss to the history of race and racism in American popular culture to current clinical practices of music therapy.
Joel Rudinow teaches in the Philosophy and Humanities Departments at Santa Rosa Junior College and is the coauthor of Invitation to Critical Thinking and the coeditor of Ethics and Values in the Information Age.
David Whiteis University of Illinois Press, 2013 Library of Congress ML3537.W55 2013 | Dewey Decimal 781.6440975
Attracting passionate fans primarily among African American listeners in the South, southern soul draws on such diverse influences as the blues, 1960s-era deep soul, contemporary R & B, neosoul, rap, hip-hop, and gospel. Aggressively danceable, lyrically evocative, and fervidly emotional, southern soul songs often portray unabashedly carnal themes, and audiences delight in the performer-audience interaction and communal solidarity at live performances.
Examining the history and development of southern soul from its modern roots in the 1960s and 1970s, David Whiteis highlights some of southern soul's most popular and important entertainers and provides first-hand accounts from the clubs, show lounges, festivals, and other local venues where these performers work. Profiles of veteran artists such as Denise LaSalle, the late J. Blackfoot, Latimore, and Bobby Rush--as well as contemporary artists T. K. Soul, Ms. Jody, Sweet Angel, Willie Clayton, and Sir Charles Jones--touch on issues of faith and sensuality, artistic identity and stereotyping, trickster antics, and future directions of the genre. These revealing discussions, drawing on extensive new interviews, also acknowledge the challenges of striving for mainstream popularity while still retaining the cultural and regional identity of the music and maintaining artistic ownership and control in the age of digital dissemination.
Singing was just one element of blues performance in the early twentieth century. Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and other classic blues singers also tapped, joked, and flaunted extravagant costumes on tent show and black vaudeville stages. The press even described these women as "actresses" long before they achieved worldwide fame for their musical recordings. In Staging the Blues, Paige A. McGinley shows that even though folklorists, record producers, and festival promoters set the theatricality of early blues aside in favor of notions of authenticity, it remained creatively vibrant throughout the twentieth century. Highlighting performances by Rainey, Smith, Lead Belly, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGhee in small Mississippi towns, Harlem theaters, and the industrial British North, this pioneering study foregrounds virtuoso blues artists who used the conventions of the theater, including dance, comedy, and costume, to stage black mobility, to challenge narratives of racial authenticity, and to fight for racial and economic justice.
It's impossible to think of the heritage of music and dance in the United States without the invaluable contributions of African Americans. Those art forms have been touched by the genius of African American culture and have helped this nation take its important and unique place in the
pantheon of world art.
Steppin' on the Blues explores not only the meaning of dance in African American life but also the ways in which music, song, and dance are interrelated in African American culture. Dance as it has emanated from the black community is a pervasive, vital, and distinctive form of expression--its movements speak eloquently of African American values and aesthetics. Beyond that it has been, finally, one of the most important means of cultural survival.
Former dancer Jacqui Malone throws a fresh spotlight on the cultural history of black dance, the Africanisms that have influenced it, and the significant role that vocal harmony groups, black college and university marching bands, and black sorority and fraternity stepping teams have played in the evolution of dance in African American life. From the cakewalk to the development of jazz dance and jazz music, all Americans can take pride in the vitality, dynamism, drama, joy, and uncommon singularity with which African American dance has gifted the world.
Charles Keil University of Chicago Press, 1991 Library of Congress ML3521.K44 1991 | Dewey Decimal 781.64309
Charles Keil examines the expressive role of blues bands and performers and stresses the intense interaction between performer and audience. Profiling bluesmen Bobby Bland and B. B. King, Keil argues that they are symbols for the black community, embodying important attitudes and roles—success, strong egos, and close ties to the community. While writing Urban Blues in the mid-1960s, Keil optimistically saw this cultural expression as contributing to the rising tide of raised political consciousness in Afro-America. His new Afterword examines black music in the context of capitalism and black culture in the context of worldwide trends toward diversification.
"Enlightening. . . . [Keil] has given a provocative indication of the role of the blues singer as a focal point of ghetto community expression."—John S. Wilson, New York Times Book Review
"A terribly valuable book and a powerful one. . . . Keil is an original thinker and . . . has offered us a major breakthrough."—Studs Terkel, Chicago Tribune
"[Urban Blues] expresses authentic concern for people who are coming to realize that their past was . . . the source of meaningful cultural values."—Atlantic
"An achievement of the first magnitude. . . . He opens our eyes and introduces a world of amazingly complex musical happening."—Robert Farris Thompson, Ethnomusicology
"[Keil's] vigorous, aggressive scholarship, lucid style and sparkling analysis stimulate the challenge. Valuable insights come from treating urban blues as artistic communication."—James A. Bonar, Boston Herald
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, British blues fan Alan Harper became a transatlantic pilgrim to Chicago. "I've come here to listen to the blues," he told an American customs agent at the airport, and listen he did, to the music in its many styles, and to the men and women who lived it in the city's changing blues scene. Harper's eloquent memoir conjures the smoky redoubts of men like harmonica virtuoso Big Walter Horton and pianist Sunnyland Slim. Venturing from stageside to kitchen tables to the shotgun seat of a 1973 Eldorado, Harper listens to performers and others recollect memories of triumphs earned and chances forever lost, of deep wells of pain and soaring flights of inspiration. Harper also chronicles a time of change, as an up-tempo, whites-friendly blues eclipsed what had come before, and old Southern-born black players held court one last time before an all-conquering generation of young guitar aces took center stage.