Readings for History of Blues in America

Readings on Blues History

  • Urban Blues, Charles Keil, University of Chicago Press. ISBN: 0226429601. This book is the grand daddy of books on the subject. It played a crucial role in getting the story of the blues into the heads of intellectuals in Mainstream America.

  • Spinning Blues Into Gold: The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records, Nadine Cohodas, St.Martin's Press, 2000. ISBN: 0312261330 (hardcover) or 177152006X (paperback). Two Polish-born Jews start a record company to get rich and become the mid-wives of Chicago blues.

  • Can't Be Satisfied, Robert Gordon, Little Brown and Company, 2002. ISBN: 0316328499. Biography of McKinley Morganfield, known as "Muddy Waters".

  • Blues With A Feeling: The Little Walter Story, Tony Glover, Scott Dirkes, Ward Gains. Thorough, readable biography of the man who defined amplified blues harmonica, Marion Walter Jacobs, known as "Little Walter".

  • Harmonicas, Harps and Heavy Breathers, Kim Field, Cooper Square Press, 2000, ISBN: 0815410204. This is the definitive book on the instrument. Field is a great writer and a top player. It features interviews with the greats and it is not limited to blues, covering country, jazz and classical.

  • Rhythm and the Blues, Jerry Wexler, Knopf, 1993. ISBN: 0679401024. Wexler was one of the original principals at Atlantic Records. He recorded Aretha Franklin, Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles, Etta James and Bob Dylan. The first 50 pages tell about his growing up in a Jewish family in New York City in terms that vibrate with life. He became obsessed with collecting jazz records (78 rmp, of course) and went on to make music history.

  • Searching for Robert Johnson, Peter Guralnick, Obolisk, 1989. A beautiful, slim book about the life of the prototypical bluesman, written by the greatest writer on American popular music, Peter Guralnick. Peter will be a guest at one of our class meetings.

  • Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick, Little Brown Company, 1994. Volume I of the definitive biography of Elvis Presley, written by the greatest writer on American popular music, Peter Guralnick.

  • Careless Love, Peter Guralnick, Little Brown Company, 2000. Volume II of the definitive biography of Elvis Presley, written by the greatest writer on American popular music, Peter Guralnick.

  • Michael Bloomfield: If You Love These Blues, Jan Mark Wolkin, Bill Keenom [Forward by Carlos Santana], Backbeat Books, 2000. ISBN: 0879306173. This is an oral history of a generation. Bloomfield was its chief protagonist. Michael Bloomfield was the guitar player in the first Paul Butterfield Blues Band. [See Never Be The Same Again]

  • The Arrival of B.B. King, Charles Sawyer, Da Capo Press, 1982. From sharecropper to cultural icon. Used copies available on the internet. Additional chapter published with the German edition in 1995: Keep The Hammer Down.