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
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.
As one of the first African American vocalists to be recorded, Bessie Smith is a prominent figure in American popular culture and African American history. Michelle R. Scott uses Smith's life as a lens to investigate broad issues in history, including industrialization, Southern rural to urban migration, black community development in the post-emancipation era, and black working-class gender conventions.
Arguing that the rise of blues culture and the success of female blues artists like Bessie Smith are connected to the rapid migration and industrialization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Scott focuses her analysis on Chattanooga, Tennessee, the large industrial and transportation center where Smith was born. This study explores how the expansion of the Southern railroads and the development of iron foundries, steel mills, and sawmills created vast employment opportunities in the postbellum era. Chronicling the growth and development of the African American Chattanooga community, Scott examines the Smith family's migration to Chattanooga and the popular music of black Chattanooga during the first decade of the twentieth century, and culminates by delving into Smith's early years on the vaudeville circuit.
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.
Can a type of music be "owned"? Examining how music is linked to racial constructs and how African American musicians and audiences reacted to white appropriation, Blues Music in the Sixties shows the stakes when whites claim the right to play and live the blues.
In the 1960s, within the larger context of the civil rights movement and the burgeoning counterculture, the blues changed from black to white in its production and reception, as audiences became increasingly white. Yet, while this was happening, blackness--especially black masculinity--remained a marker of authenticity. Crossing color lines and mixing the beats of B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Janis Joplin; the Newport Folk Festival and the American Folk Blues Festival; and publications such as Living Blues, Ulrich Adelt discusses these developments, including the international aspects of the blues. He highlights the performers and venues that represented changing racial politics and addresses the impact and involvement of audiences and cultural brokers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An internationally recognized pianist, composer, scholar, and conductor, Peter C. Muir is the cofounder and codirector of the Institute for Music and Health in Verbank, New York.
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.
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.
Suddenly Robert Johnson is everywhere. Though the Mississippi bluesman died young and recorded only twenty-nine songs, the legacy, legend, and lore surrounding him continue to grow. Focusing on these developments, Patricia R. Schroeder's Robert Johnson, Mythmaking, and Contemporary American Culture breaks new ground in Johnson scholarship, going beyond simple or speculative biography to explore him in his larger role as a contemporary cultural icon.
Part literary analysis, part cultural criticism, and part biographical study, Robert Johnson, Mythmaking, and Contemporary American Culture shows the Robert Johnson of today to be less a two-dimensional character fixed by the few known facts of his life than a dynamic and contested set of ideas.
Represented in novels, in plays, and even on a postage stamp, he provides inspiration for "highbrow" cultural artifacts--such as poems--as well as Hollywood movies and T-shirts. Schroeder's detailed and scholarly analysis directly engages key images and stories about Johnson (such as the Faustian crossroads exchange of his soul for guitar virtuosity), navigating the many competing interpretations that swirl around him to reveal the cultural purposes these stories and their tellers serve.
Unprecedented in both range and depth, Schroeder's work is a fascinating examination of the relationships among Johnson's life, its subsequent portrayals, and the cultural forces that drove these representations. With penetrating insights into both Johnson and the society that perpetuates him, Robert Johnson, Mythmaking, and Contemporary American Culture is essential reading for cultural critics and blues fans alike.
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.
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.
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.
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.