The Roots, The Music, The People...
By Francis Davis
Hyperion, NY, 1995.
IF you ever read a book on The Blues- this is the book to read. From Pre- History to the mid 90's the Blues are covered. ROCK and roll fans as well as R&B lovers will find their roots here too. The short essays on Blues performers are indeed a vital contribution to black history. The reader may find that a lot of popular music myth started with the Blues. COULD it be that in 1923 a rather ugly but extremely popular female blues singer set the standard for every POP-ROCK performance that followed? Ma Rainey was her name and for her day she incorperated elaborate set designs, outrageous costumes with her soul shaking vocals delivered with spirited struts and sashays! Shades of Elton John! JUST who came up with the idea of selling ones' self to the devil for musical success and popularity? Was it Robert Johnson? (Johnson's songs and lyrics covered by groups like the Stones and Led ZEP.) Or was it something already entrenched in black mythology of his times. THE author, Davis, makes a strong case that those famous Robert Johnson tunes were borrowed, adapted or influenced by previous black bluesmen. "Crossroads Blues" he believes was taken from Charlie Patton's 1929 song "Down The Dirt Road Blues." IF Rock's British invasion was steeped in American Black Blues - Was the Folk movement inspired by LEDBELLY? Davis makes the case. INDEED it was BOB DYLAN'S HWY 61 that Bessie Smith died on under mysterious circumstances! MY favorite story from THE HISTORY OF THE BLUES is one of Canned Heat's founder "Blind Owl" Wilson (he wasn't blind that was kind of a tribute to all the Blind boy black bluesmen like Blind Lemon Jefferson but he was the high range vocal on "Going Up The Country" and "On The Road Again.") rediscovering Blues pioneer SON HOUSE who had'nt played in years. Here the white boy, Wilson, re teaches Son House how he played his own songs long ago. ALSO fascinating is the story of the interplay between Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. It was Dixon who wrote "Hoochie Coochie Man", "Spoonful," "Backdoor Man," and "Walking The Dog." I found The History Of The Blues great bedside reading - You may too! Rock On Boomers!