This is a page of resources for my course at Hot Docs Curious Minds - The Blues: A Musical and Cultural History.
Lecture 1 notes:
On the Robert Charles riots, and the incident that may have inspired the last verse of "Crazy Blues."
Here's a link to a YouTube video featuring the James Koetting 1975 field recording of postal workers cancelling stamps at the University of Ghana post office. This is a moderately famous recording, as it was featured on the companion CD/cassette for the world music textbook Worlds of Music by Jeff Todd Titon, which is where I first heard it as an undergraduate at McMaster U. Incidentally in looking for the recording online I also found an actual video of something similar. Elsewhere, a music student transcribed and arranged the classic 1975 recording for computer, and a band called the Minor Seconds actually worked it up for live gigs.
Lecture 2 notes:
The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie, a NYT piece on the author's search for information about the mysterious 1920s blueswomen Geeshie Wiley and Elvie Thomas. This is what they're calling now a "longread," with a lot of history about the blues 78 collecting community. The article is a little bit too romanticizing for my taste but there is some good information.
The strange world of ultrarare blues 78 collectors has become a fairly hot topic in books and documentaries. The documentary "Desperate Man Blues" about the legendary collector Joe Bussard is excellent but out of print - this Dust-To-Digital half-hour doc is a good alternative, and Do Not Sell At Any Price is New Yorker writer Amanda Petrusich's meditation on the phenomenon.
Little Egypt's bellydancing, captured in Thomas Edison's 1896 short film Coochie Coochie Dance, may be the inspiration for the "cootchie" verse in Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Matchbox Blues."
Elijah Wald's NYT article Leroy Carr: The Bluesman Who Behaved Too Well.
A podcast interview with Bruce Conforth, who with Gayle Dean Wardlow has recently published an exhaustively researched biography of Robert Johnson.
Lecture 3 notes:
Here's an article about the notorious 'dirty blues' "Shave 'Em Dry" as recorded by Lucille Bogan in 1935. Explicit content warning!
The jukebox has a long history reaching back into the wax cylinder era. Here's a deep dive into the history of the jukebox.
Jimmie Rodgers featured in a short film. Excellent footage.
Here's a brief piece on the history of the electric guitar.
Hot off the press, here's my article on the emergence of live blues in Yorkville Village in the 1960s. It appears in the January issue of the Maple Blues Newsletter: When The Blues Came To Yorkville
Here is a Spotify playlist of songs featured in the course, and a few extras for the keeners:
Robert Palmer, Deep Blues
Karl Hagstrom Miller, Segregating Sound
LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Blues People
Elijah Wald, Escaping The Delta