A Historical Interpretation of Texas Blues Music
Mississippi claims the blues as its own, and it does indeed have a rich musical history. But Texas, too, got the blues around the turn of the 20th century, and that story is less well known. In many ways, the stories are similar: An oppressed people, working in the cotton fields in sweltering heat for low or no pay, creates a music that expresses their pain and anger in such a powerful way that it becomes a bedrock of popular music throughout the United States and the world. Many Mississippians such as Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker took their music north, where they amplified it and spawned rock ‘n’ roll. Texans such as Aaron “T-Bone” Walker and Pee Wee Crayton joined the migration to the West Coast, where they created a hot, swinging sound that merged blues and big band jazz.
Veteran journalists Glenn Davis and Jay Brakefield have told the story of Texas blues in Blood on the Cotton, reaching back into the early history of the Brazos Valley, where first slaves, then convicts and sharecroppers sang as they labored, then picked up guitars and other instruments to spread that music far and wide. Each of those huge plantations was a world unto itself, where the boss’s word was law and the penalty for crossing him could be severe. Tom Moore, who, with his brothers, farmed thousands of acres on both sides of the Brazos River, often told his hands, “You stay out of the graveyard; I’ll keep you out of the pen.” Courageous singers such as Mance Lipscomb and Sam “Lightnin’ ” Hopkins made their hard times under men such as Moore into art, knowing that playing and recording those songs could be dangerous, even deadly.
In Blood on the Cotton, you’ll meet those characters and more: Texas Alexander, Little Hat Jones, Blind Willie Johnson, who melded religious fervor with slashing slide guitar and made a recording that was launched into space aboard the Voyager. It’s a story as big as Texas and it deserves to be told.
The scope of this work, however, is not limited to Texas. While most books dealing with blues history tend to be geographically limited, Blood on the Cotton not only compares Texas and Mississippi blues, it takes long looks at the internationalization of the music and asks piercing questions about its future direction.
There are two versions of this book available. You can buy the non-illustrated version on Amazon by clicking the link below, or you can contact Glenn and purchase the illustrated copy directly from him.
There are two versions of this book available.
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