Blues Stories and Blues Storytellers
Barry Lee Pearson
“Pearson has collected a gold mine of compelling tales, organized them with convincing logic, and introduced them with the kind of penetrating insight and professional modesty that any blues scholar might do well to emulate. This is a terrific book—one I know I’ll use in my own teaching.”
—Adam Gussow, author of Seems Like Murder Here: Southern Violence and the Blues Tradition
Jook Right On: Blues Stories and Blues Storytellers is what author and compiler Barry Lee Pearson calls a “blues quilt.” These blues stories, collected by Pearson for thirty years, are told in the blues musicians’ own words. The author interviewed over one hundred musicians, recording and transcribing their stories. These are stories from well-known musicians such as John Lee Hooker, Koko Taylor, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, and Little Milton, and from more obscure artists such as Big Luck Carter, Henry Dorsey, Joseph Savage, and J. T. Adams. Pearson provides an introduction to the world of the blues and the genre of blues stories as well as brief biographies of the musicians.
Divided into five sections—Blues Talk, Living the Blues, Learning the Blues, Working the Blues, and The Last Word—the book provides an overview of the inner workings of the blues tradition from the artist’s point of view.
Wordsmiths by trade, the storytellers bring to their tales qualities also found in blues song performance and philosophical perspectives characteristic of the blues tradition such as improvisation, ironic humor, ambivalence, and a life-affirming sense of hope in the face of adversity. Pitched somewhere between story and song, this remarkable chorus of voices provides concrete illustrations of what it means to live the blues, to feel the blues, and to play the blues. Taken together, these artists provide a collective history of one of America’s most influential art forms.
Blues fans and those interested in African American music, folklore, American music history, popular culture, and southern history will want to read Jook Right On: Blues Stories and Blues Storytellers.
The Author: Barry Lee Pearson is professor of English and American studies at the University of Maryland. He is the coauthor of Robert Johnson: Lost and Found, Virginia Piedmont Blues: The Lives and Art of Two Virginia Bluesmen, “Sounds So Good to Me”: The Bluesman’s Story, and more than a hundred articles. In 1993 he was nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album for Roots of Rhythm and Blues: A Tribute to the Robert Johnson Era.