This semiannual column lists newly-issued periodicals, describes their objectives, formats, and contents, and provides information about special issues, title and format changes, mergers, and cessations.
Blue Suede News: House Organ of the Church of Rock and Roll! Ed. by Marc Bristol. Quarterly. Vol. 1, no. 1, Feb. 1985-vol. 3, no. 2; no. 14. Subscription: POB 25, Duvall, WA 98019. $12/yr. ISSN 1075-6647.
The masthead of this lively fanzine-states:
Blue Suede News is dedicated to all American Roots music, particularly those roots of rock'n'roll such as blues, R&B, doo-wop, rockabilly, honky-tonk country, cajun, zydeco, tex-mex, folk, jazz and such. We're interested both in the pioneers of this music and also in those who are carrying on these traditions with a strong sense of roots.
Each issue features five to seven articles and interviews, followed by reviews, primarily of recordings, to which about half the issue is devoted. Articles generally range from one to three pages, in double columns of fine type. A recent issue includes Lee Cotten's article on and interview with Buddy Knox. Cotten, author of Shake, Rattle & Roll, a biographical compilation in the series The Golden Age of American Rock 'n' Roll (Ann Arbor, Popular Culture Ink, 1989), describes Knox and his partner Jimmy Bowen, as the "fathers of . . . the Tex-Mex sound" and gives a synopsis of their performing years and recordings from 1956 to the present, focusing on the period from 1956 to 1958 when they had their start and greatest success. "Jim & Lee Denson: The Elvis Connection," by Dennis DeWitt, tells of two brothers who grew up next door to Elvis Presley and who later became performers and songwriters. A short article is followed by two interviews with the Densons. Both articles are lively and informative, but it is troubling that no sources of information are credited; statements made in interviews also bear no evidence of attempts at verification. "Frank Zappa: Child of the 1950s," by Howard A. DeWitt, presents a tribute to the late composer, whose music does not in the main fall under the purview of this organ. DeWitt, the author of Elvis: The Sun Years, The Story of Elvis Presley in the Fifties (Popular Culture Ink, 1993) describes Zappa's early years and struggles for recognition, and discusses his early musical influences, which ranged from the art music of Edgard Varese, Anton Webern, and Igor Stravinsky, to the popular music of Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, Johhny Otis, Howlin' Wolf, and Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton. DeWitt cites Zappa's autobiography The Real Frank Zappa (1989) and several magazine articles within the text. DeWitt's article is longer than most (five pages). His colorful writing makes for lively reading, but occasionally calls for editorial intervention, as in the following sentence:
The suburban malaise which hung like a toxic cloud over Southern California provided Frank with the barbs to poke fun at the plastic flamingos on the lawns of local homes, the brown shoed, slick haired three piece suits who frequented the cocktail lounges and the gadgets like the vacuum cleaner that let you clean without thinking. (no. 26, p. 6)
Of the reviews, most are devoted to compact disc (CD) recordings. Each issue also offers several video, book, and magazine reviews, as well as occasional concert reviews and reviews of other sound recording formats. Most of the CD reviews are by the editor and are very brief, in order to feature as many recordings as possible. One issue covered 122 recordings. Bristol is a performer himself of several styles of "roots" music, including blues, jug band, creole, and zydeco music. He is also a former columnist for Mother Earth News. In the words of one letter writer, "[This] magazine does a great job of reviewing releases one does not find in the traditional musical press." Recording labels covered range from the well-known (RCA, MCA, Rounder, Arhoolie, Shanachie, and Library of Congress) to the more obscure (Watermelon, Bullseye Blues, and Earwig). …