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The Blues Encyclopedia [Kindle Edition]

Edward Komara , Peter Lee

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Review

'An impressive list of contributors ... Besides being rich with biographical entries, this Encyclopedia also includes entries for important record labels, instruments, styles, geographic regions, aspects of the business, and additional topics that have been lacking in other encyclopedic efforts ... This is a valuable addition to the reference shelf of blues literature ... Highly recommended.' - Choice

'This two-volume A-to-Z set effectively categorizes the history of the blues. A great benefit is that the book features blues artists from all time periods, and the number of obscure blues artists listed in remarkable. Essential for any library collecting the history of the blues.' -- Library Journal

'In this two-volume Encyclopedia, Komara provides about 2100 entries, both brief and extensive, on the blues, its history, culture, roots, contemporary styles, artists, historians, songwriters, record labels, forms, characteristics, instruments, songs, regions, historiography, music business, and related forms. Discographies and bibliographiesfor each entry are included, as well as a thematic list of entries and an index in each volume.' --Reference & Research Book News

"A great deal of useful material is enclosed within the two sets of covers. It spreads a broader and deeper net than the late Sheldon Harris’s Blues Who’s Who (1979), going beyond individual musicians, and it includes broader headings such as regions/states; musical styles and techniques; instruments; points of cultural interest; historiography; record labels; related art forms; specific 'major' songs. These longer entries are quite good, well-researched and well-written, worth knowing about and using." --Peter B. Lowry, Western Folklore, volume 68, nos. 2-3 (2009)

 

Product Description

The Blues Encyclopedia is the first full-length authoritative Encyclopedia on the Blues as a musical form. While other books have collected biographies of blues performers, none have taken a scholarly approach. A to Z in format, this Encyclopedia covers not only the performers, but also musical styles, regions, record labels and cultural aspects of the blues, including race and gender issues. Special attention is paid to discographies and bibliographies.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 7343 KB
  • Print Length: 1279 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0415926998
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 4 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Routledge (1 July 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00GY1GLB6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
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Amazon.com: 2.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2.0 out of 5 stars Where was the fact-checking? 24 Oct. 2014
By Joseph Scott - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I paid a low price for this encyclopedia. The general level of scholarship in it is okay to poor (although a fraction of the articles are good): no contributor seems to have been fact-checking anyone else, and I don't know how the typical user of the volumes would know which "facts" in the entries to believe and which not to. Here are 40 examples of inaccuracies:

"SINGING," "rural blues musicians did not record until 1925-1926": no, Ed Andrews and Johnny Watson recorded in 1924, for instance.
"BLUES," "The earliest titled 'blues' sheet music publications" were "Memphis Blues" and "Dallas Blues": no, examples from before "Memphis Blues" include "I Got The Blues" by A. Maggio, "The Blues (But I'm Too Blamed Mean To Cry)" by Smith and Brymn, and "Baby Seals Blues" by F. Seals. "Baby Seals Blues" has routinely been identified as an earlier publication than "Memphis Blues" for decades by competent writers, such as Sam Charters in his popular book about blues published 55 years ago. (The similar section in the "PIANO" entry here is also inaccurate. Meanwhile the "ST. LOUIS BLUES" entry does know about Maggio's "I Got The Blues.")
"TOBA," Ma Rainey learned blues in childhood in Georgia: according to Ma Rainey, no.
"SAXOPHONE," during the 1930s, bands became big bands: no, big bands were popular in the 1920s.
"BLUES," we have 12-bar versions of "Frankie And Johnny" from the 1870s (writes Edward Komara, the encyclopedia's editor): no, we don't. Accurate remarks about "Frankie" from a different writer (John Garst) are in the "FRANKIE AND JOHNNY" entry of this same encyclopedia.
"TEXAS," "It's not just another Texas brag to say the first... blues musician to play electric guitar was T-Bone Walker": yes it is. Walker's wife recalled that Walker began playing electric guitar in about 1940, which fits with Walker's recollection that the first person he heard play electric guitar was Les Paul, who was playing electric guitar on the radio in 1939. Walker first recorded on electric in 1942, two years after the famous Tampa Red was playing electric on his recordings, three years after Bill Broonzy was playing electric on hits by John Lee Williamson, etc.
"GUITAR," the first "bluesy electric solo" was by Floyd Smith on Andy Kirk's "Floyd's Guitar Blues" in 1939: no, e.g. Peetie Wheatstraw's "Truckin' Through Traffic" from 1938 had a bluesy electric solo.
"BLUES," "The earliest blues sound recording by an African American is 'Crazy Blues' sung by Mamie Smith": no, e.g. Wilbur Sweatman was so popular as of 1919 when he recorded "Kansas City Blues" that the magazine _The Judge_ used the term "Sweatmania" in its record reviews section on 10/18/19; the Ciro's Club band recorded a vocal version of "St. Louis Blues" well before 1920; Bert Williams shipped an estimated 300,000 records total in 1919 and 1,000,000 in 1920, and recorded "Unlucky Blues" in April 1920, before "Crazy Blues"; and W.C. Handy began recording 12-bar blues in 1917.
"MEMPHIS BLUES" "is not actually a blues at all": of course it is, it has two strains that are 12-bar and one that isn't; it's a blues just like everyone calls the partly 12-bar "Crazy Blues" and "St. Louis Blues" blues songs.
"BABY PLEASE DON'T GO...," the "Alabama Bound" song family grew out of a 1925 popular song publication: no, that song family existed long before 1925. E.g. the famous collector of black folk songs Newman White collected it as a folk song in about 1916, Blind Boone copyrighted a piece including it before that, the elderly black folk singer Alf Valentine claimed in 1939 that he'd known it for over 40 years, Robert Hoffman published a version of it (as "I'm Alabama Bound") in 1909, etc. etc.
"FORMS": no, there is no good reason to refer to "What Is It That Tastes Like Gravy" or "They're Red Hot" as a blues piece. Pieces likes that were known as rags.
"PIANO," Blind Boone published his "Rag Medleys" ("Strains From The Alleys" and "Strains From Flat Branch") in "the 1890s": no, later.
"SAXOPHONE," the saxophone "was introduced to blues by the recordings of" performers such as Mamie Smith and Ma Rainey: no, e.g. Wilbur Sweatman recorded "Joe Turner Blues" backed by five saxophones in 1917 (and the Six Brown Brothers' "Bull Frog Blues" opened with 12-bar the year before that).
"THIS TRAIN...," Ray Charles' "I Got A Woman" and Little Walter's "My Babe" have the same chord progression: not even close to the same progression.
"LEWIS, FURRY" was "really" born in 1893, because he said he was: he sometimes said that, but he was born in 1899.
"CARELESS LOVE": the comments about how hard it is to trace "Careless Love" back before 1911 and 1921 are inaccurate; e.g., it was collected from Mississippi whites by R.J. Slay in 1909; J.E. Webster told Vance Randolph he first heard it in about 1880; Wooden Joe Nicholas reported that Buddy Bolden, who stopped playing in 1907, played it; John Joseph recalled that he first heard it in about 1906; Ed Garland said he was playing it in about 1910. (Not that it's a blues song anyway. Malcolm Douglas reports that it goes back to the British songs "The Sprig Of Thyme" and "Died For Love.")
"WILKINS,... ROBERT" began playing guitar when he was in his twenties: when he was about 16, in about 1912.
"ARMSTRONG, LOUIS": no, as of about 1940, Louis Armstrong was not more widely known than Benny Goodman.
"BLUES," the Cleveland folk string band Handy heard was a "blues group": when did Handy say that?
"PIANO," "the only information we have about [Jelly Roll Morton's and Tony Jackson's] New Orleans contemporaries and the music they played is in Morton's Library Of Congress recordings": other than what's in the Hogan Jazz Archive, etc.?
"BLUES," "Only a handful of the first-generation bluesmen made records": no, many, many musicians who were born before 1895 recorded blues, from John Hurt and Charlie Patton and Johnny Watson and Simmie Dooley and the like to Cow Cow Davenport and Freddie C. Washington and the like to Andrew Baxter (fiddle), Matthew Prater (mandolin), Nathan Frazier (banjo), Jesse Harris (accordion), Washington Phillips (zither), etc. etc.
"MORTON, JELLY ROLL" heard a blues for the first time "in 1902": the woman he said he heard that song from died in 1911, and it's long been known that Morton was not reliable at dating events (he exaggerated to self-publicize).
"PATTON, CHARLEY" "was the first Mississippi blues performer to commit a significant body of music to recordings": Jim Jackson and Gus Cannon, who were born in Mississippi and were playing together in Mississippi as of about 1912, both started cranking out their substantial recorded outputs before Patton started cranking out his.
"BANDS," W.C. Handy heard the guitarist in Tutwiler in "1900": no, Handy's autobiography suggests that it was in about 1904, after he settled down in Mississippi for a while in "1903." (Handy recalled, decades after the fact, that he next moved to Tennessee in "1905," but 1906 or 1907 is likely.)
"BLUES," "[T]he process of adopting a preexisting melody in twelve measures and substituting the words... is the practical beginning of the blues...": we don't know that that's true. One of the two black folk songs that Howard Odum collected before 1909 with "blues" in the lyrics was not in 12-bar form, it was in 8-bar form, a popular form then in folk music of blacks (and whites). The variant of "Poor Boy Long Ways From Home" that Emmet Kennedy said he had already been hearing for years from blacks on the street when he performed it in 1906 for a friend and in 1909 onstage was in 16-bar AAAB form.
"COTTEN, ELIZABETH," Cotten wrote "Freight Train": possible but not very likely, given that these lyrics were collected from another singer in Durham, NC in 1919: "Train, train, train, train, run so fast/Couldn't see nothing but the trees go past/Don't tell Mamma where I'm gone/'Cause I'm on my way back home."
"ROCK 'N' ROLL," the electric guitar was first used in jazz and western swing: no, by musicians performing in the Hawaiian style as part of that craze.
"LYNCHING AND THE BLUES," "Strange Fruit" is a blues song: no it isn't, as the entry writer's source _Seems Like Murder Here_ pointed out.
"DIDDLEY, BO," his famous rhythm was "extended from blues influences" rather than from R&B: it was extended from Latin music. Watch "El Fiel Enamoradao" by Estudiantina Invencibal from 1929. What blues (as opposed to R&B) recording before Diddley used that rhythm?
"DOMINO, FATS" was second only to Elvis Presley as a rock and roll star in the late '50s: The Everly Brothers had the #11 and the #19 in the 1957 year-end pop charts in Billboard with "Bye Bye Love" and "Wake Up Little Susie" and the #13 in 1958 with "Bird Dog"; Fats' highest placing in those charts was #25 for "I'm In Love Again" in 1956.
"RAILROADS," "Railroad Bill" "first appeared in 1909": no, that would be a reference to the lyrics from 1909 that E.C. Perrow published, but Howard Odum also collected the song, before 1909. Back in the 1920s, Dorothy Scarborough noticed in her book about black folk music that the lyrics in "Railroad Bill" about "Trying to act big like Cuba and Spain" pointed to roughly 1898 (the Spanish-American War). "The negro Morris Slater, alias 'Railroad Bill,' robber, murderer and desperado, was shot and killed at Atmore Saturday night at 8:50 p. m., by J. L. McGowan." -- Montevello [Alabama] _News_, Mar. 12, 1896.
"RECORDING," Ford Dabney and Wilbur Sweatman "focused on pop tunes of the day": these pioneers who recorded before Mamie Smith both emphasized blues and jazz relative to typical bands of their time.
"ROCK 'N' ROLL," Elvis Presley's "That's Alright Mama" is "considered to be the first rockabilly song": by people who haven't bothered to listen to "Rompin' And Stompin'" by Curtis Gordon, for instance. The person who did more than anyone else to popularize "hillbilly" (country) music mixed together with black rock and roll, i.e. rockabilly, was Bill Haley, who began making recordings in the style in 1951 (although Hardrock Gunter had made one rockabilly recording, "Birmingham Bounce," in early 1950 for the Bama label before Haley got interested in black rock and roll).
"ROCK 'N' ROLL," before rock and roll "there was little that could be considered as music for teenagers": creative nonsense. Years before _Singin' In The Rain_ in 1952, young Donald O'Connor's job was cranking out movie musicals for young people, a la '60s Elvis (_What's Cookin'_, _Give Out Sisters_, _Get Hep To Love_, _Are You With It_, etc.) It's famous that Frankie Sinatra had a massive "bobbysoxers" following as of 1943. (That's why the petite 17-year-old Marcy McGuire was hired to play his typical fan in his movie _Higher And Higher_.) Benny Goodman, who at heart was a jazz purist, publicly said in the '40s that he had a male singer with his band because the kids seemed to like him. Louis Jordan recorded "The Green Grass Grows All Around." "This is the teen age," wrote _Life_ on 12/11/44.
"PIANO," "Long before the blues settled into the twelve-bar form in which it is usually played, there were 'blues' songs published that were simply the popular songs of the day": the very notion of "blues music" arose in about 1909 to describe black folk music, because the use of the word "blues" in black folk music was on the rise at the time. Howard Odum collected 12-bar black folk music about having the quote "blues" before 1909, Antonio Maggio encountered a 12-bar "I Got The Blues" performed by a black guitarist on a levee in 1907, the first publication of any actual blues songs was in 1912, and those were directly inspired by the preexistence of black folk blues songs. The twelve-bar structure was popular with black folk musicians as of about 1895, and it remained popular for about 12 years straight before using the word "blues" in black folk songs became popular among black folk musicians (which was before it became popular with anyone else).
"BIG THREE TRIO," "one could argue that the [Big Three Trio] conjures the aesthetics of the prewar blues sound more than the postwar sound": not plausibly, because they were emulating the Charles Brown with Johnny Moore/King Cole Trio sound, which was not a prewar sound. "I Feel Like Steppin' Out" was typical of their output; they were about as bluesy in general as the Five Red Caps. The fact that one bandmember later wrote songs recorded by the likes of Howlin' Wolf doesn't somehow change that.
"SEE THAT MY GRAVE IS KEPT CLEAN," the use of AAAB lyrics "confirm[s] a pre-blues origin": no. E.g., black guitarist John Bray said he wrote a particular AAAB song in the 1910s, and the 1910s are not "pre-blues."
"LITTLE RICHARD" "helped craft the transition of R&B to rock and roll in the mid-1950s": no, because when e.g. Bill Haley got interested in black rock and roll in the year 1950, the music he got interested in was earlier music like "Rock The Joint" by Chris Powell, "Jump And Shout" by Erline "Rock And Roll" Harris as she was already being called in print, "Rock That Boogie" by Jimmy Smith, "Rock And Roll" by Bill Moore, "Rockin' All Day" by Jimmy McCracklin, "Boogie At Midnight" by Roy Brown, "Man Eater" by Jay McNeely, and "All She Wants To Do Is Rock" by Wynonie Harris, whereas Little Richard began recording in late 1951.
"SMITH, BESSIE," Ma Rainey's work was "deeply rooted in the traditional country blues": no, it wasn't; her work was similar to Bessie's.
"BASIE, COUNT" "led 'the Band That Plays the Blues'": no, the "Band That Plays The Blues" was the heavily promoted nickname of the Woody Herman orchestra. The source of the author's error seems to be the same error being made in the 1992 book _The Rolling Stone Illustrated History Of Rock & Roll_.

This two-volume set easily could have been only one volume if it had been edited properly (what does a paragraph about the etymology of the word "Alabama" have to do with blues, for instance, and how much does the fact that the Monkees recorded a Coasters song have to do with blues?), and if all the margins, including between articles, hadn't been so big (dividing everything into two columns, as here, is an old trick to make the text seem longer, too). But then it couldn't have sold for as much to libraries. Inclusion of artists is random; e.g., the minor saxophonist Preston Love, who was proud he'd ever been in Count Basie's big band, gets an entry, whereas Lester Young, who Basie was proud had ever been in his band, does not. Lengths of entries is also random: Sonny Terry's entry is less than a quarter page, and the Bohee brothers, Canadian banjoists born before 1860 who are not known to have ever taken interest in blues music, get a whole page.
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