Been Here and Gone: A Memoir of the Blues


Can I tell you about the blues?
Baby, I was born with the blues...

So begins the fictional memoir Been Here and Gone, the extraordinary story of an all-but-forgotten bluesman, Coley Williams. A backup musician to some of the most famous and infamous figures in the annals of blues music, and a former recording artist in his own right, Williams had a backstage pass to a world that most of us could never even ...

See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (32) from $1.99   
  • New (2) from $45.00   
  • Used (30) from $1.99   
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any coupons and promotions
Seller since 2015

Feedback rating:



New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

Brand new.

Ships from: acton, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Seller since 2008

Feedback rating:


Condition: New

Ships from: Chicago, IL

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Sort by
Sending request ...


Can I tell you about the blues?
Baby, I was born with the blues...

So begins the fictional memoir Been Here and Gone, the extraordinary story of an all-but-forgotten bluesman, Coley Williams. A backup musician to some of the most famous and infamous figures in the annals of blues music, and a former recording artist in his own right, Williams had a backstage pass to a world that most of us could never even imagine. In 1998 at the astonishing age of one hundred and two, Williams agreed to tell his tale for the first time. We can only be thankful for the fruits this "collaboration" with renowned author David Dalton has yielded: as funny, furious and funky as a lick on a talking guitar, Dalton's rhythmic prose captures the inimitable voice of a man who walks it like he talks it without missing a beat.

From his youth as a tenant farmer on the Mississippi plantations to the Great Migration to the Northern cities, from his incarceration in the notorious Sugarland prison farm to the temptations of freedom on the open road, from the juke joints of the deep South to the stages of Swinging London, Coley Williams' life is at once the story of the blues and the story of the twentieth century. Across a hundred years of tumultuous change, we follow him through the hardships of the Flood of 1927 and the hardscrabble years of the Great Depression, the race riots of the 1960s and the birth of the Civil Rights movement. Along the way, Williams' vividly recounted anecdotes introduce us to the pantheon of blues legends whose paths he crossed: Charley Patton, Tommy Johnson, Bessie Smith, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Ma Rainey, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, the immortal Robert Johnson, and even the young Elvis Presley. Raucous, rambunctious, and often downright dangerous, these larger-than-life musicians, singers, and all-around rabble-rousers live again in Williams' wonderfully colorful recollections. And of course, throughout it all, there is the music: whether it's the plaintive and lonely sound of the Mississippi Delta or Chicago's lowdown and dirty electric hellfire brew. Here is the boisterous blues in all its hues-salty and soulful and sad with a glimmer of hard-won hope always singing out beyond the last note.

Been Here and Gone is a highly personalpanorama of the century as seen and experiencedby one of the most remarkable figures in recentliterature. It is at once a wildly inventive epic, aheartfelt testament to the people and places of avanishing era, and an invaluable contribution tothe literature of - music and popular culture thatwill fascinate blues fans, history buffs, and generalreaders alike. If Coley Williams' story (to quotethe old son) was nearly the "Blues the WorldForgot," then Been Here and Gone is just the tonicwe need to refresh our memories and remindourselves of the vitality of this music and thepeople who have lived it. Here before us is theAmerican Century, set to the tune of the Americanmusic. Can I tell you about the blues? Baby, I wasborn with the blues...

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Gadfly Magazine
David Dalton may be the best damn music writer alive...This is a must read for any true fan of the blues and a fun read for anyone, even those not musically inclined.
Washington Post Book World
Painstaking and passionate...will educate those unfamiliar with blues culture while delighting aficionados.
New York Daily News
[A] unique, entertaining perspective on a slice of American music history.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Former Rolling Stone contributing editor Dalton (Rock 100) has a transcendent view of the blues. As he writes in his novel's afterword: "The rise of the blues, the music God hummed when he made the world, is to me a miraculous event, a ray of blinding spiritual power cast over the soul-corrupting late 20th century," and the author's passion is evident in a long, loving tale relating the life of Coley Williams, a 100-year-old blues musician. Coley is old enough to have known the first generation of bluesmen, like Charley Patton and Robert Johnson. Describing the Delta landscape of cotton crops and juke joints that gave rise to a whole blues culture, Coley's story is as much about the music of its own telling, in a unique patois comprising French, Yoruba, English and vivid vernacular, as it is about the development of the blues. Between WWI and the Great Depression, playing the piano or the guitar with Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, Coley meets the devil with Robert Johnson. Intermittently, he returns to his farm and his wife, Vida Lee. Coley and his adventures thrill in the first half of Dalton's well-researched tale, but the second half of the book falters. In his attempt to make Coley Williams's life synonymous with blues history, Dalton strains the plot in trying to bring his protagonist into contact with every significant R & B and rock artist of the century, up to Jimi Hendrix. But a domestic subplot brings it back home, with Vida Lee cuckolding Coley with her "brother" Jimmy. Dalton's shining vignettes, complete with robust dialogue, are the real pleasure of this book--his portrayal of Leadbelly in the Sugarland Penitentiary in Texas is unforgettable, and such shrewd storytelling and strong voices will have blues lovers "hooked, lined and sinkered." Read in tandem with Jack Fuller's The Best of Jackson Payne (Forecasts, Apr. 10) , this novel is yet another course in this season's literary jazz feast. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380976768
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/1/2000
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.26 (d)

Meet the Author

David Dalton, a founding contributor of Rolling Stone, is the author of some fifteen books, including James Dean: The Mutant King, El Sid: St. Vicious, Piece of My Heart, Mindfuckers, Painting Below Zero, Faithfull with Marianne, Been Here and Gone, and Bob's Brain: Decoding Dylan, which will be published in late 2011.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Hoodoo Bash

My hundredth birthday near to did me in, if it was my hundredth that is.

They say I was found one hundred years ago yesterday. Found is what folks used to call bein borned. See, in the old days people believed that everything that ever was or ever will be was already out there in the universe. Volcanoes, baby snakes, toasters, alligator shoes, plaid pants and downhome blues. I just happen to be floatin down the Milky Way when Mama and Papa caught me, and that's the truth. You can believe it or not.

I was countin on spendin a nice peaceful day with my great-great-grandkids or whatever they is, sippin lemonade and eatin pecan pie. Vida Lee's pecan pie is one of the things that has allowed me to see this day. Right now, I'm just too tired to hunt for the recipe but if you're still around later...

Where was I? Oh yeah, the so-called birthday. As I say, I went to bed the night before, dreamin I was in a boxcar headin down to Mobile, that's right, but I woke up to something sounded like I left the police scanner on all night. When I lifted the shade to see what all the fuss was about I wanted to pull the covers over my head and crawl right on back into my boxcar dream.

I was livin in a trailer out on Highway 61 near Robinsonville. With Vida Lee of course. Vida Lee is my wife and the lady what puts the pecans in my pie. Anyway. Out by the side of the road was a whole mess a people I had never in my life seen before. There was the local TV news from Memphis pullin up in a van, there was pickups and limousines and VW buses full of hairy kids. It was like the circus come to town.

There was faces atthe window, there was faces at the door. Someone was knockin like a fatback drummer on a lard-pail lid.

"Who the hell is that?" I asked Vida Lee.

"Says he's Willard Scott from the Today show and he wants for you to come and blow out the candles on this here guitar-shaped cake."

"Tell him to blow 'em out his own damn self."

Now the phone start ringin in the hall and naturally Vida Lee got to answer, much as I am forever tellin her to let the thing ring. Damn invasion of privacy is what it is.

"Just pick it up, ya old fart," she tells me. "It's the President! He wants to wish you happy birthday."

"President of what?" I asks. She ignore me as usual.

Covers the receiver with her hand and tells me, "Now, honey, don't get mad but he seems to think you're Muddy Waters. Whatever he says just say, 'Thank you, uh, your Honor.'"

"The hell I will," I told her. "This is my hundredth. Let him say what he wants at his hundreth."

That, by the way, is more or less the story of how I came to not speak with the President of the United States. A memory I shall treasure forever.

Now how the word got out 'bout my hundredth, I still do not know for sure, but by noon people was queuing up to get in. The BBC was there, the Blues Channel, God rest my soul, French television, CNN, and Entertainment Tonight.

All shovin mikes in my face, askin all kinda stupid questions to which there ain't no answers anyways: "What is the blues? Where do it come from? How's it feel to be this old?"

Also: "What is your secret and can it be bottled?" And: "Is it true you knew Lincoln and Whitman and Billy the Kid?" Not to mention: "Give your opinion of kids today and what do you want your tombstone to say?"

Seems I'm the last of my kind. Like I was a passenger pigeon,or a two-headed calf. Oh man, a hundred-year-old bluesman is a sight to see.

"Woman," I says to Vida Lee, "you been down at the post office broadcastin on your own personal frequency?"

"What in hell you expect you turn a hundred years? You a celebrity, baby, a Delta dinosaur. Hell, you on the mornin news. You're historical, like Paul Revere's horse or something."

I was gettin tired. I wanted to lay down on my waterbed, smoke some grass, drink some whiskey, and watch Hee Haw on the television.

One thing about gettin this old, you miss the people who was close to you. You mention Charley Patton, Ma Rainey to these kids today they don't know who the hell you talkin about.

It was too many people and too many bottles. I was drunk and stoned, that's right, and pretty soon I passed out with my head in the cake.

By and by up come Marie the Prophetess, two-headed woman from New Orleans, her cowrie shells janglin as she walked. She musta been a hundred and twenty if she was a day. Had wrinkles on her like knee-socks. She didn't look all that good to tell the truth, but I was amazed to see her walkin at all.

"My my, don't you look good for a hundred years; still handsome I see."

'Course I know just what she's doin, so I just say, "I shoulda. knowed I'd see you and your bag of tricks, today bein today and all."

'Well, I couldn't miss your hundredth, baby, now could I? You lonely, Coley? I figured you for lonely."

"With all these damn people here?"

"But you don't really know these people, do you? When you get to our age all your real friends is in the past."

"And a good thing too." I tells her that. . .

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)