Delta Blues: The Life and Times of the Mississippi Masters Who Revolutionized American Music [NOOK Book]

Overview

“The essential history of this distinctly American genre.”—Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In this “expertly researched, elegantly written, dispassionate yet thoughtful history” (Gary Giddins), award-winning author Ted Gioia gives us “the rare combination of a tome that is both deeply informative and enjoyable to read” (Publishers Weekly, starred review). From the field hollers of nineteenth-century plantations to Muddy Waters and B.B. King, Delta Blues delves into the uneasy mix ...

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Delta Blues: The Life and Times of the Mississippi Masters Who Revolutionized American Music

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Overview

“The essential history of this distinctly American genre.”—Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In this “expertly researched, elegantly written, dispassionate yet thoughtful history” (Gary Giddins), award-winning author Ted Gioia gives us “the rare combination of a tome that is both deeply informative and enjoyable to read” (Publishers Weekly, starred review). From the field hollers of nineteenth-century plantations to Muddy Waters and B.B. King, Delta Blues delves into the uneasy mix of race and money at the point where traditional music became commercial and bluesmen found new audiences of thousands. Combining extensive fieldwork, archival research, interviews with living musicians, and first-person accounts with “his own calm, argument-closing incantations to draw a line through a century of Delta blues” (New York Times), this engrossing narrative is flavored with insightful and vivid musical descriptions that ensure “an understanding of not only the musicians, but the music itself” (Boston Sunday Globe). Rooted in the thick-as-tar Delta soil, Delta Blues is already “a contemporary classic in its field” (Jazz Review).

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Editorial Reviews

Ben Ratliff
Much of this material has been covered in other books, though without so much synthesis and circumspection…Gioia uses original research, interviews with reliable sources and his own calm, argument-closing incantations to draw a line through a century of the Delta blues—a history that is probably more over than he cares to admit in his book's final pages. He has balanced the story of the music with that of its reception, and where the truth of either one is inaccessible, he says so. He's in favor of the blues retaining some mystery, but only highly informed mystery.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Gioia (The History of Jazz) succeeds admirably in the daunting task of crafting a comprehensive history of the art form known as the blues, depicting the life story of the music from its cradle in the Mississippi Delta all the way to its worldwide influence on contemporary sounds. His sweeping examination focuses on the legends in detail, including Charley Patton, Son House, Tommy Johnson, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King and many more. He often deconstructs myths, such as the story that both Tommy Johnson and Robert Johnson made midnight deals with the devil at the crossroads, and digs deep to clarify many murky stories, including "untruths and wild speculations" about the life and early death of Robert Johnson. His narrative follows the northern migration of the blues to Chicago, where Muddy Waters recorded for Chess Records, and along the way he analyzes the influence of Delta blues on Elvis, the Rolling Stones and other rock 'n' roll icons. Gioia dissects many songs, but he doesn't write beyond the understanding of general readers, creating the rare combination of a tome that is both deeply informative and enjoyable to read. (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Well-known jazz pianist and author Gioia (The History of Jazz) recently took a serious interest in blues music. Here, he begins with a brief explanation about the African roots of the music and discusses such non-Delta roots as minstrel shows, W.C. Handy, and Bessie Smith. Gioia then starts in earnest, describing the beginnings of the Delta sound with Charley Patton and former Parchman inmates Son House and Bukka White. He relates the stories of such obscure Delta artists as Tommy Johnson and Big Joe Williams before delivering the bulk of the book, which describes the lives and influences of Delta blues icons Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, and John Lee Hooker. Gioia ends with a chapter about the rediscovery of Delta legends by rabid blues collectors during the 1960s and then oddly leaps to 1990s performers such as Chris Thomas King and Junior Kimbrough in the last few pages. Gioia has read the essential books and spoken to blues scholars to provide a concise, fast-paced volume about Delta blues basics. Though presenting little new information and not geared for the blues fanatic, this is an excellent introduction to Delta blues for the novice and the general reader. [See Prepub Alert, LJ6/1/08.]
—Dave Szatmary

Kirkus Reviews
The back roads of the blues are traveled anew in a biography-driven history. Writer-musician Gioia (Healing Songs, 2006, etc.) undertakes the daunting task of reconsidering the blues of the Mississippi Delta, musicological terrain well-plowed in several noteworthy books, most prominently the late Robert Palmer's seminal Deep Blues (1981). Gioia is up to the job. After some wide-lens discussion of the music's African origins, W.C. Handy's popularization of the form in the early 20th century and the early female "classic blues" singers, he plunges into chapters largely focused on the Delta style's key recording artists. Equal weight is given to originators of the '20s and '30s (Charley Patton, Son House, Skip James, the inevitable Robert Johnson) and postwar exponents (Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King). A final chapter summarizes the entry of the Delta's music into the cultural mainstream via the blues revival of the '50s and '60s and recent developments, wrapping things up tidily. With the exception of House, all Gioia's subjects have been covered in at least one full-length biography, but his prose moves with enough velocity and packs enough insight to keep even jaded readers interested. He roams easily into sidebar discussions about topics as diverse as the role of Mississippi retailer and talent scout H.C. Spier in the spread of the Delta sound; the tenuous economics of the "race records" business, which screeched to a halt during the Depression years; and the careers of such chimerical performers as Kid Bailey and Geechie Wiley, one of the very few women to play in the Delta style. Gioia has absorbed all the previous research and organizes it with verve andeconomy, and he's not afraid of being argumentative when it's warranted. He has also undertaken fresh interviews with many of the obsessive scholars, including Gayle Dean Wardlow, Mack McCormick and Stephen Calt, whose fieldwork first unearthed the elusive history of the Delta's bluesmen. Comprehensive and smart-a solid text for blues aficionados. Agent: Brettne Bloom/Kneerim & Williams
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393069990
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/2/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 679,030
  • File size: 772 KB

Meet the Author

An authority on jazz and blues, Ted Gioia is the founder and editor of jazz.com. He has recorded several CDs as a pianist and composer and is the author of five highly regarded books on jazz and roots music. He lives in Plano, Texas.
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Table of Contents

1 The blues and the old kingdoms 1

2 Where the southern cross the dog 19

3 Dockery's plantation 45

4 Parchman prison 77

5 Hard time kiilin' floor 111

6 Hellhound on my trail 149

7 I'm a rolling stone 191

8 Hooker's boogie 233

9 Smokestack lightnin' 273

10 Riding with the king 309

11 The blues revival 347

Notes 401

Recommended listening 417

For further reading 423

Index 427

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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted March 11, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Easy way to learn about the blues

    Ted Gioia caught my attention and held it for all 480 pages. If you want to learn about the blues for the first time or are looking for an updated book with even more information, Delta Blues is for you. Ted's style is easy to read; yet packed with facts and tidbits that kept me entranced. I used this book to assist me with my road trip through Mississippi as i explored the blues trail and historical markers that mark influential people, places, and events. Ted reminded me of names that had moved to the back of my mind as well as moving me to visit places I may have skipped. You won't be disappointed with this volume. A valuable addition to any bookshelf. Again, an easy and enjoyable way to learn about the blues.

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