Mudcat Café message #878687 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #56273   Message #878687
Posted By: Rick Fielding
30-Jan-03 - 06:53 PM
Thread Name: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
Subject: 'Land Where The Blues Began' Lomax, Sad.
I've just finished the amazing book by the late Alan Lomax "Land Where the Blues Began". It's a document of several trips to the deep sunny South (with a few visits to Chicago) and the writing is superb.

Some of the blues singers that he talks to (and records) are very famous indeed...Muddy Waters, Fred MacDowell, Bill Broonzy, Little Walter, Son House, and about a dozen others. But at least an equal number are pretty obscure unless you're a nurd about this kind of thing. I am, and was very pleased to have the stories of Scot Dunbar, Sid hemphill, Napoleon Strickland and especially Forrest City Joe, fleshed out.

But ohhhhhh.....the sadness of this book is at times overwhelming. Lomax is constantly having to explain why he wants to be around 'niggers', and he's almost arrested several times. The sheer terror at realizing that a white man may have seen Lomax shaking a black man's's not just Lomax who'd be in big trouble....despite his credentials, books, recordings, and reputation, he was still just an outside agitator and 'nigger lover'. I'm not talking about his field trips with his dad in the thirties......this is in 1959-1960!

Most of the Southern interviews take place near Memphis, or in parts of Mississippi, and I found myself getting angrier and angrier at how these men and women were threatened and brutalized if they got out of line.........

...........but.....I absolutely LOVE old time white country music, and have hundreds of recordings by people who glady perpetuated that system.

Bill Broonzy talks about his Army experience in World War One, and it's hard to understand how he or ANY black man would want to call themselves "American' after such treatment. British Rockers (I seem to recall) often asked quizzickly how the inventors of American music could be treated so badly.

OK OK, I know that Free labour was absolutely needed to keep things percolatin', and without it there simply wouldn't have been a Southern economy.....maybe that's simply it, in a nutshell. But Gawd, it's hard to read about the humiliation that these great musicians were forced to endure. Bravo Alan Lomax.

Perhaps there were some Mudcatters, who lived through some of this.....(much of the book was written about stuff 40 years ago) what was it like from your point of view?