Broadcasting the Blues : Black Blues in the Segregation Era book cover
1st Edition

Broadcasting the Blues
Black Blues in the Segregation Era

ISBN 9780415971775
Published October 12, 2005 by Routledge
210 Pages

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Book Description

Broadcasting the Blues: Black Blues in the Segregation Era is based on Paul Oliver's award-winning radio broadcasts from the BBC that were created over several decades. It traces the social history of the blues in America, from its birth in the rural South through the heyday of sound recordings. Noted blues scholar Paul Oliver draws on decades of research and personal interviews with performers--some of whom he "discovered" and recorded for the first time--to draw a picture of how the blues aesthetic developed, giving new insights into the role blues played in American society before racial integration.

The book begins by outlining the history of the blues from African music through country stomps, ragtime songs, and field hollers. From the heroic figures of black folksong--including the steel-driving railroad worker John Henry and the destructive Boll Weevil--to the content of the emerging blues, the author discusses the "meaning" behind the often coded words of the blues, evoking topics such as playful sexuality, magic and medicine, the stresses of segregation, and commentary on national events. Finally, the author traces the history of blues documentation, showing how our views of the early blues have been shaped through a complex interplay of social forces, and indicating possible lines for future research.

Table of Contents

PrefaceIntroduction: The Development of the Blues I Before the Blues1 Blues in Retrospect2 Blues and Black Society3 Echoes of Africa4 Go Down Old Hannah5 Old Country Stomp6 Ragtime Millionaires7 Dr. Medicine8 John Henry and the Boll Weevil9 Yonder Comes the BluesII Early Performers10 Washboard Rhythm Bands11 Harmonica Breakdown: Sonny Terry12 Leadbelly (Parts 1 and 2)13 Some Contemporary Blues SingersIII Meaning in the Blues14 Blues and Trouble15 Down the Dirt Road16 Black Cat's Bone17 Tricks Ain't Walkin'18 Jail-house Moan19 Let's Have a New Deal20 High Water Everywhere21 This World is in a Tnagle22 Blues with a Feeling23 Three Ball BluesIV Documenting the Blues24 Creating the Documents25 (De)Classifying the Blues26 Anticipatin' the Blues27 Playing with the Strings28 Blowin' the Blues29 In the Field30 Still to Be DocumentedConclusion: The Blues as an Art Form

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Paul Oliver is a world-renowned authority on the blues. He was among the first to write seriously about the music, and his many acclaimed books include Blues Feel This Morning, Conversation with the Blues, The Story of the Blues, and Savannah Syncopators. He lives in Oxfordshire, England.


"For the past half-century Paul Oliver, more than any other writer, has established and defined the topics for discussion in the blues field. Broadcasting the Blues collects radio scripts that he has written over this period, reflecting his broad interests in the blues: its historical and stylistic development, its relationship to African-American culture and history, its lyric themes, its sources in African music and older American folk and popular music, its status as performing art and literary expression, and the history of blues research itself. In a very readable form it summarizes the subjects covered in Oliver's many books on the blues, presenting his vast knowledge and insight to a new generation of readers." -- David Evans, The University of Memphis

"As a founding father of blues literature, Paul Oliver has introduced my generation and beyond to the complex social history behind our treasured record collections. Now his BBC radio scripts (with annotations of records played) have been retrieved from the airwaves to add to Paul's valuable blues bibliography - for the further education of us all." -- John Broven, Author of 'Rhythm & Blues in New Orleans' and 'South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous'

"Paul Oliver is one of the world's foremost experts on the Blues idiom, and this text serves as an impeccable summary of the most influential and wide-reaching of all music movements." -- Electric Review

"With its unusual insights into the world of blues broadcasting and history alike, Oliver's perspective provides a unique survey indeed." --The Midwest Book Review