Delta Blues

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

4.16 (353 ratings by Goodreads)
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The blues grew out of the plantations and prisons, the swampy marshes and fertile cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta. With original research and keen insight, Ted Gioia - the author of a landmark study of West Coast jazz and the critically acclaimed "The History of Jazz" - brings to life the stirring music of the Delta, evoking the legendary figures who shaped its sound and ethos: Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, B. B. King and others. Tracing the history of the Delta blues from the field hollers and plantation music of the nineteenth century to the exploits of modern-day musicians in the Delta tradition, "Delta Blues" tells the full story of this timeless and unforgettable music. No cultural force boasts such humble origins or such world-conquering reverberations. In this evocative rags-to-riches tale, Gioia shows how the sounds of the Delta altered the course of popular more

Product details

  • Hardback | 448 pages
  • 152.4 x 233.68 x 38.1mm | 793.78g
  • WW Norton & Co
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0393062589
  • 9780393062588
  • 547,922

About Ted Gioia

* An authority on jazz and blues, TED GIOIA is the founder and editor of He has recorded several CDs as a pianist and composer and is the author of five highly regarded books on jazz and roots more

Review Text

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 and economy, 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. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

353 ratings
4.16 out of 5 stars
5 38% (133)
4 45% (159)
3 14% (50)
2 2% (7)
1 1% (4)
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