Sounds So Good to Me: The Bluesman's Story

Sounds So Good to Me: The Bluesman's Story

Sounds So Good to Me: The Bluesman's Story

Sounds So Good to Me: The Bluesman's Story

Excerpt

As the 1960s drew to a close, the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival attracted musicians from all over the United States. The biggest names in the blues business played to an enthusiastic audience. I was there as a blues fan first, but also as a graduate student intent on studying American music. Armed with a letter requesting that I be allowed backstage, I threaded my way through the crowd to the fenced-off performer's area. To my astonishment the letter worked, and I suddenly found myself in the company of some of America's finest blues musicians and my own personal heroes.

Having grown up in Chicago, I was no stranger to the music. I had even spent time with musicians like Big Joe Williams, Memphis Slim, and J. B. Lenoir. Big Davey Myers of the "Aces" taught me to play the bass from up on the bandstand of the now defunct club Big John apos;s. Outside the same club, I witnessed back-alley arguments between the musicians and union representatives who were on their case for working below scale. Yet I never really considered blues musicians as union members -- or as members of anything else for that matter. To my mind a blues singer was a loner, traveling life's rough road with only a guitar for company.

But backstage at Ann Arbor I was struck by the sense of community the artists projected. It shaped the way they spoke as well as the way they looked at the world around them. Friends and rivals exchanged greetings couched in a characteristic competitive banter. Old partners recalled their past adventures, introduced their new sidemen, and caught up on the latest gossip -- who made it big, who quit, who moved back south, who died. Out front, the audience saw an exceptional blues show. Backstage, the musicians turned the event into their own family reunion.

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