Monday, August 9, 2010

The real St Louis' Blues.

It seems like there hasn't been a break since Devil At The Confluence hit the bookshelves. Nearly weekly events, exhibits, readings and discussions have been going on for many months now and it's been very exciting to see this wave of enthusiasm and interest in the subject of St Louis history. It's very interesting and encouraging because there is a real thirst and enthusiasm for the stories of the decades of lost St Louis musical history. I've kept notes of the questions that I get most often and I'm going to try to elaborate on them here at the blog.

The first point of the book and the biggest misperception about the city's blues music history is also the most often discussed. And that is the fact that the book contains biographies of only musicians who are St Louisans. 
They are not visitors to St Louis or migrating southerners. 

The idea that music was solely formed and developed in the Delta and carried by one man or maybe a few from the Delta to be played for and taught directly to others in northern areas is probably the biggest misconception of American music history. 

The artists depicted with their biographies in Devil At The Confluence lived in St Louis, had families in St Louis or nearby, first recorded from St Louis and there is no evidence of music before they recorded in St Louis. This seems like an odd point to repeat about a book subtitled "The Pre-war Blues Music Of St Louis, Missouri," but it is the most important because the mythology that developed about blues music and it's evolution is a very prevalent and commonly accepted theory. It's outdated and inaccurate and it has diminished St Louis' importance to American music history. It was the realization of St Louis' many many blues greats and musical contributions that revealed this error and compelled me to make the book.

St Louis Bluesman Lonnie Johnson is a perfect example to illustrate the misunderstanding of early blues history. His music was blues. 
"Blues" is the word that he used for his music. 
And the original audience and buyers of the music called it "blues." 
And his contemporaries, the original legendary innovators of the music, used the word "blues" to describe the music. 
And that is the definition of "blues" that I used in the book. You'll see why that's an important point when talking about St Louis and Lonnie Johnson.

The next blog post will be Lonnie Johnson's story and why he and his city were overlooked in blues history.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, and I think the obsession with Mississippi needs to stop. Speaking of just lyrics alone, three brilliant guys came from Texas- "Funny Paper" Smith, Texas Alexander, and Blind Lemon. Considering only guitar playing, men from Georgia and the Carolinas are just as good as a Robert Johnson. And speaking of Robert Johnson, shouldn't we speak more about Johnny Shines?

    I'm just starting to learn more about Blues and pre-Blues music from places like St. Louis and Kentucky.