BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online

The blues, the folk, and African-American history

Hamilton, Marybeth (2001) The blues, the folk, and African-American history. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 11 , pp. 17-35. ISSN 0080-4401.

[img]
Preview
Text
671.pdf

Download (139Kb) | Preview
Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0080440101000020

Abstract

On a stifling Saturday in Texas in June 1937 a twenty-six year old African-American musician, Robert Johnson, stepped to the microphone in a makeshift recording studio in a disused warehouse atop a Buick showroom. Johnson had grabbed a ride west from his native Mississippi to make it to the recording session in Dallas, one more journey in a life that had been spent by and large on the road. In contemporary parlance, he was a songster: an itinerant guitarist and maker of songs who scraped together a living wherever he found it, performing on street corners and in juke joints in the Deep South, sometimes drifting north, even reaching New York City, but always heading south again. That he recorded at all came down largely to luck; luck, and the exigencies of the Great Depression, which cut deeply into record company profits and forced the so-called ‘race record’ companies, which sold to an almost entirely black market, to look for cheap talent, Southern performers with local reputations who might appeal to regional markets. Johnson was one of many who caught a talent scout’s ear in the Mississippi Delta in the late 1930s. On that Saturday in Dallas he recorded fifteen songs, among them a haunted blues called ‘Hellhound on my Trail’.

Item Type: Article
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > History, Classics and Archaeology
Depositing User: Sandra Plummer
Date Deposited: 07 May 2008 11:01
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:33
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/671

Archive Staff Only (login required)

Edit/View Item Edit/View Item