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Since Apr 1, 1997

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... to preserve, promote and perpetuate the Blues Tradition ...

Recommended Readings
& Discography

This listing of recommended readings provides a fairly complete library of the history of the Blues and is a good place to start your education -- especially if you are a new Blues enthusiast. If you have any suggestions for inclusion in this list we welcome your comments. Recent addtions to the list are at the bottom. Books available from Amazon.com are linked with our "special" link ... so if you are in the market to buy, please use our book specific links (click on the underlined titles). If you need more information about Amazon.com before you buy, please visit the links from their home page. (But if you need a recommendation, consider this it ... I have bought from them on the web, and was extremely pleased!)

Some of the books listed here are generally available from your Free Public Library, others you may be able to get from http://www.amazon.com ("The World's Largest Bookstore", they can help you locate out-of-print books). Use this search link to look for specific books or use the specific links in our list to earn us more commission for your purchase:

A brief description is provided when information was available. Several books include a discography. Use your browser's FIND feature to search for the word discography. Several books are noted as ESSENTIAL READING, use your FIND feature to search for those.

If you are in the mood for tunes, link to Amazon.comAmazon90X29-b-logo.gif (1685 bytes)

Also check out the Best Blues Page

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Blues for Dummies
by Lonnie Brooks, Cub Koda, Wayne Baker Brooks

Paperback - 372 pages Book & Cd edition (August 1998)
- 372 pages Book & Cd edition (August 1998)
IDG Books Worldwide; ISBN: 0764550802 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.06 x 9.30 x 7.45
Amazon Price: $19.99

Filled with information on the great blues singers, songwriters and musicians and a list of the most essential blues records of all time, this book takes music lovers on a journey from the Mississippi Delta to Memphis to Chicago and points beyond. The CD features a discussion of the blues by blues guitar legend Lonnie Brooks.

  • Back Woods Blues - Compiled by Simon Napier
    Blues Unlimited Publication  1968
    A brief pamphlet covering an interesting cross section of blues musicians by various well known blues authors.

  • Living Country Blues - Harry Oster
    Minerva Press  1969
    A detailed study of country blues emphasizing the themes and lyrics of the music.

  • Beale Street USA Where The Blues Began
    Blues Unlimited Publication  1967

  • Recording the Blues - Robert Dixon & John Goodrich
    Stein and Day  1970
    A concise pre-war history of the record companies that recorded the early blues and the people they recorded.

  • Crying for the Carolinas - Bruce Bestin
    Studio Vista  1971
    Field research of the blues covering the Carolinas, North Georgia and legacy of Blind Boy Fuller.

  • Savannah Syncopators - African Retentions In The Blues - Paul Owen
    Stein and Day  1970
    An examination based on field studies of the African element in the blues.

  • Memphis Blues and Jug Bands - Bengt Olsson
    Studio Vista  1970 
    A history of the blues musicians and jug bands of the Memphis scene and Beale Street.

  • Ma Rainey and The Classic Blues Singers - Derrick Stewart-Baxter
    Stein and Day  1970
    A discussion of the "Classic" women singers of the twenties who first put the blues on record.

  • The Listeners Guide to the Blues - Peter Guralnick
    Facts on File  1982
    A survey of an evaluation of Blues LP's categorized by region, periods and musicians; makes a good discography for the blues.

  • The Roots of the Blues an African Search - Samuel Charters
    M. Boyars 1981
    Charters documents his search in West Africa of cultural, instrumental and musical derivations to the blues.

  • The Spirituals and the Blues: An Interpretation - James Cone
    Seeburg Press  1972  (Greenwood Press  1980)

  • Listen to the Blues - Bruce Cook
    Scribner's Sons  1973
    A good overview of the history of the blues with profiles of the bluesmen and the importance of the music in American history.

  • Deep Blues - Robert Palmer
    Viking  198
    An excellent account of the history of the Blues from the rural beginnings to the south side of Chicago with a brief discography.
    * ESSENTIAL READING *

  • Black, Whites and Blues - Tony Russell
    Stein and Day  1970
    An historical examination of the complex relationship between the black and white folk music traditions and their importance to the blues.

  • Blues from the Delta - William Ferris
    Studio Vista   1970  (Anchor Press Doubleday  1978)
    A documentary on the blues and specific musicians of the Mississippi Delta with transcriptions of a house party and a discography.

  • Blues Who's Who: A Biographical Dictionary of Blues Singers - Sheldon Harris
    Arlington House  1979 / 1988
    An extensive research that includes 571 biographies and 400 photos which lists each performer alphabetically with an abbreviated account of the events in their careers.

  • White Boy Singin' the Blues - Michael Bane
    Penguin Books  1992
    A chronicle of the adoption, imitation and alteration of black musical styles by whites from Beale Street to New Wave.

  • The Bluesmen: The Story and the Music of the Men Who Made the Blues - Samuel Charters
    Oak Publications  1967 (1977)
    (also available from Amazon.com as: The Blues Makers: Containing Reprints of Two Titles : The Bluesmen and Sweet As the Showers of Rain 1991)
    An excellent exploration of the personal, social and musical backgrounds of the great Mississippi, Alabama and Texas bluesmen.

  • The Legacy of the Blues: Glimpse Into The Art and Lives of Twelve Great Bluesmen - Samuel Charters
    Da Capo Press  1988
    Each chapter provides an insight into the lives of 12 immense bluesmen based on interviews. The book grew out of a series of LP's on Sonet Records.

  • Sweet As The Showers of Rain - Samuel Charters
    Oak Publications  1979
    (also available from Amazon.com as: The Blues Makers: Containing Reprints of Two Titles : The Bluesmen and Sweet As the Showers of Rain 1991)
    A study of regional post-war blues styles including Tennessee, Memphis, Atlanta, Atlantic Coast and the Carolinas.

  • Right On: From Blues to Soul in Black America - Michael Havalambos
    Drake Publications  1975
    Republished as: Soul Music  The Birth of A Sound in Black America
    Da Capo  1985
    A study of the development of soul music from the blues during the 50's and 60's and the power or black radio stations.

  • Blues People: Negro Music in White America - Imamu Amiri Baraka, et al
    William Morrow & Co.  1983
    A musical and sociological study which explains that the beginnings of the blues music began with the American negro culture.

  • Urban Blues - Charles Keil
    University of Chicago Press  1992 
    Written about the expressive male role of the contemporary bluesman within the urban lower-class negro culture.

  • Stomping the Blues - Albert Murray
    McGraw-Hill  1989
    An overview of blues music as it relates to the classic, swing and jazz traditions; includes lots of good photographs.

  • The Devil's Music: A History of the Blues - Giles Oakley
    Taplinger Publishing Co.  1997
    A good primer on the historical development of the blues with fine illustrations and lyrics. 

  • Aspects of the Blues Tradition - Paul Oliver
    Oak Publications  1970

  • The Story of the Blues - Paul Oliver
    Chilton Book Co.  1997
    A very exciting and thorough book on the blues with a complete story from its birth to today, illustrated with excellent photographs and a discography.
    * ESSENTIAL READING *

  • "Sounds So Good To Me"  The Bluesmen's Story - Barry Lee Pearson
    University of Pennsylvania Press  1984
    A collective portrait of 21 bluesmen's careers as told through their interviews and autobiographies.

  • Chicago Breakdown - Mike Rowe
    Drake Publishers  1975
    Republished as: Chicago Blues  The City & The Music
    Da Capo  1981  (1986)
    A well illustrated history of a distinct style of urban blues and the dozens of black musicians who came our of the south and west sides of Chicago, with discography.

  • Honkers and Shouters: The Golden Years of Rhythm & Blues - Arnold Shaw
    MacMillan Publishing Co.  1978
    An excellent history of R & B as an indigenous black art form and style with an emphasis on the musicians, writers and singing groups that created it and the record companies that nurtured it; discography included.

  • Blues - Robert Neff & Anthony Connor
    David R. Goodine Publisher  1975
    An inspired mingling of quotes from scores of blues musicians with excellent informal photographs.

  • Big Star Fallin' Mama: Five Women in Black Music - Hettie Jones
    Viking Press  1974
    A narrative about Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin presenting their personality, music and the times.

  • The Blues Line: A Collection of Blues Lyrics - Eric Seckheim
    Schirmer Books  1969
    The lyrics of 270 blues songs that represent every major blues artist are presented like poetry with sketches of each musician.

  • The Music: Reflections On Jazz and Blues - Imamu Amiri Bavaka
    Morrow  1987

  • Blow My Blues Away - George Mitchell
    Louisiana State University Press  1983

  • Cousin Joe: Blues From New Orleans - Cousin Joe & Harriet J. Ottenheimer
    University of Chicago Press  1987
    A story of Cousin Joe Pleasant's life evolved from 15 years of taped conversations including the gigs, recording sessions, tours and associations with other famous people.

  • Stormy Monday: The T-Bone Walker Story - Helen Oakley Dance
    Louisiana State University Press  1990
    This first biography of T-Bone reflects sound research based on dozens of interviews with Walker; discography included.

  • Black Pearls: Blues Queens of the 1920's - Daphne Duval Harrison
    Rutgers University Press  1990
    A study of the black women blues singers during the 1920's and how they transformed a folk tradition into popular music.

  • The Country Blues - Samuel Charters
    Rinehart  1959  (Da Capo Press  1975, 1988)
    The pioneering study and excellent introduction to the country blues that reconstructs its evolution and dissemination.
    * ESSENTIAL READING *

  • The Poetry of the Blues - Samuel Charters
    Oak Publications  1963
    An analysis of the themes of the blues lyrics and verses.

  • The Meaning of the Blues - Paul Oliver
    Hergon Press  1965
    This book compiles recorded interviews from 65 blues singers to present their lives, homes, work and musical heritage.

  • Blues Records 1943-1966 - Mike Leadbetter & Neil Slaven
    Oak Publications  1968
    A definitive discography of over 1,000 blues musicians that is an encyclopedia of more than two decades of recorded blues. An updated discography titled "Blues Records 1943-1970" Vol. 1 (A to K) has just been published. Vol. 2 will be available later this year.

  • Nothing But The Blues - Lawrence Cohn, et al
    Abbeyville Press  September 1993
    * ESSENTIAL READING *

  • Nothing But The Blues - Mike Leadbetter
    Oak Publications  1971
    A book of reports, anecdotes, interviews and photographs compiled from the writers of Blues Unlimited Magazine.

  • Feel Like Going Home: Portraits In Blues & Rock 'N' Roll - Peter Guralnick
    E.P. Dutton  1971
    A book of profiles that trace the development of the blues from traditional country roots up through Memphis, Chicago and early days of rock 'n' roll with a selected discography.

  • The Blues Revival - Bob Groom
    Studio Vista  1971
    Survey of the expanding popularity of the blues describing research, rediscoveries and recordings.

  • Beale Black & Blues  Life and Music on Black America's Mean Street - Margaret McKee & Fred Chrisenhall
    Louisiana State University Press

  • Big Road Blues - Traditions & Creativity in the Folk Blues - David Evans
    Da Capo  1982  (1987)
    A study of the processes of the folk blues tradition and composition done through fieldwork research.

  • Red River Blues - Bruce Bestin
    MacMillan  1986
    A definitive story of the origins and evolutions of the black American blues tradition in south eastern America drawing on oral history interviews.

  • Black Music - Dean Tudor & Nancy Tudor
    Libraries Unlimited  1979
    A survey and buying guide to blues, rhythm 'n' blues, gospel, soul and reggae music on LP's with nearly 1/2 of the book devoted to the blues.

  • The Arrival of B.B. King - The Authorized Biography
    Doubleday & Co.  1988
    A psychological, sociological and musical study of the most famous blues singer and guitarist of our time with discography.

  • Blues and The Poetic Spirit - Paul Garon
    Eddison Bluesbooks  1996
    Louisville native takes a fresh look at the poetry and spirit of the blues bringing together psychology, psychoanalysis and surrealism.

  • Blues Off The Record:  Thirty Years of Blues Commentary - Paul Oliver
    Da Capo Press  1988
    A collection of essays and critiques written over 30 years. The book is arranged in sections or origin, guitar players, cities and piano players.

  • Early Downhome Blues  A Musical and Cultural Analysis - Jeff Todd Titon
    University of Illinois Press  1995
    An application of the techniques of anthropology, linguistics, history, musicology and popular culture to studying rural blues.

  • Bessie Smith - Paul Oliver (Kings of Jazz Series)
    A.S. Barnes and Co.  1971
    Introduction to the life of Bessie Smith, the greatest jazz singer of her day with discography.

  • Robert Johnson - Samuel Charters
    Oak Publications  1979
    The story of Johnson's elusive life and influential music with remembrances by musicians who knew him and musical transcriptions.

  • Blues Guitarists - Various
    Guitar Players Productions  1975
    A collection of 19 interviews and articles reprinted from Guitar Player Magazine.

  • Up From The Cradle of Jazz - New Orleans Music Since W.W. II - Jason Berry, Jonathan Foose and Tad Jones
    The University of Georgia Press  1992

  • Meeting The Blues / The Ris of the Texas Sound - Alan Grovenar
    Taylor Publishing Co.  1995
    A chronicle of the rise of the Texas blues sound through excellent photographs and oral history. Individual biographies grouped by the various regions of Texas is the format of the text with a selected discography.

  • Searching for Robert Johnson - Peter Guralnick
    Dutton Publishing  1989
    83 pages - $15 at the Chicago House of Blues bookstore

  • Muddy Waters, The Mojo Man - Sandra B. Tooze
    Traces Muddy's life from the 1920's to his death in 1983

  • All Music Guide to the Blues: The Experts' Guide to the Best Blues Recordings (All Music Guide Series) - Michael Erlewine & Vladimir Bogdanov (Editor), Chris Woodstr
    Miller Freeman Books  September 1996
    Listing more than 500 blues artists alphabetically, each with a brief biographical profile, and reviewing and rating their best recordings -- more than 3,000 in all -- this comprehensive guide identifies thousands of top-notch CDs, albums, and tapes in all styles of the blues. Fifteen historical essays plus supplemental "music maps" chart the roots and evolution of the blues.

This site created and maintained by Debbie D. Wilson, KBS Websmith
First Published: April 1997 * Last Revised: 02 Nov 2009


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