Skip to main content

Stories about the Blues

Week 3: Stories about the Blues


Find out about Robert Johnson. What did he contribute to the blues, and what does his story reveal about blues narratives and myths?

How did technology help change the blues?

How did the blues develop in the 1930s and 40s?

What were the connections between blues and jazz?

How did the 'blues reviva'l of the 1960s affect the history of the genre? How did the Yardbirds, Cream, Led Zeppelin, JImi Hendrix etc develop the blues?

How have critics and academics viewed the Blues?

Core readings

Steven P. Garabedian (2014) The Blues Image in the White Mind: Blues Historiography and White Romantic Racialism, Popular Music and Society, 37:4, 476-494

George Lipsitz ‘Remembering Robert Johnson: Romance and reality’,

Popular Music and Society, 21:4, (1997), pp.39-50

Theo's ppt

Further Reading

Elijah Wald, ‘Blues and Jazz’ in The Blues: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2010), pp. 81-94 **

Abbott, Lynn, and Doug Seroff. Out of sight: The rise of African American popular music, 1889-1895 (Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2003

Abbott, Lynn, and Doug Seroff. "" They cert'ly sound good to me": sheet music, Southern vaudeville, and the commercial ascendancy of the blues." American Music (1996): 402-454.

Abbott, Lynn. "" Play that barber shop chord": a case for the African-American origin of barbershop harmony." American Music (1992): 289-325.

Abbott, Lynn, and Doug Seroff. "Ragged but right." Black traveling shows, ‘Coon’ Songs, And the Dark Pathway to Blues and Jazz. Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2007

Bay, Mia. “Remembering Racism: Rereading the Black Image in the White Mind.” Reviews in American History 27.4 (1999): 646–56.

Brooks, Tim, and Richard Keith Spottswood. Lost sounds: Blacks and the birth of the recording industry, 1890-1919. (University of Illinois Press, 2004)

Fredrickson, The Black Image in the White Mind (1971)

Mary Beth Hamilton, In Search of the Blues; Black Voices, White Visions (NY, Basic, 2008) [ebook]

Reebee Garofalo and Steve Waksmen, Chapter 2. ‘Blues, Jazz, and Country: The Segregation of Popular Music’, Rockin’ Out (6th edn., Pearson, 2013)

Muir, Peter C. Long Lost Blues: Popular Blues in America, 1850-1920 (University of Illinois Press, 2010)

Titon, Jeff Todd. Early Downhome blues: A musical and cultural analysis. (UNC Press Books, 2014)

Elijah Wald, Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues (Amistad/Harper Collins, 2004)

Elijah Wald, The Blues: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2010)