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Elvis Presley, with Scotty Moore on the guitar, made this appearance when he left Sun Records to join the RCA. The Victor mascot, Nipper, sits to Presleys right.
Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly rapt in song.
At first glance, it may seem odd that women once enjoyed such a high profile in the blues. Pianists Bertha Gonsoulin and Lil Hardin, who worked with King Oliver; pianist Mary Lou Williams of Kansas City and the John WIlliams and Andy Kirk bands; and Dolly Jones, whose vaudeville act included jazz trumpet specialties, were part of a small minority of working black female instrumentalists in the 1920s.
B.B. King, his band, and his tour bus on Beale Street, Memphis, about 1951.
John Lee Hooker plays on Detroits Hastings Street, late 1940s.
Nothing But The Blues
The Music and the Musicians

Edited by Lawrence Cohn / Introduction by B.B. King

Size: 8 1/2 x 10 3/4", 
Paperback, 432 pages
325 illustrations, 16 in duotone
Published 1999
ISBN: 978-0-7892-0607-7
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$39.95

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The story of Americas most passionate and enduring music, told through fascinating narrative and vintage photographs.

"Nothing But the Blues is a gorgeous object, packed full of rare photographs and written by a virtual whos who of blues experts. " -- Boston Globe

"Extensively illustrated, comprehensive volume...Cohn does full justice to this rich and vibrant chapter of American history." -- Publishers Weekly

"Lavishly illustrated, well researched, and written in a lively style, this book should become a standard on the topic." -- Library Journal

It is our most passionate music, rooted in ancient Africa but brought to blossom in America at the doorstep of the twentieth century. It is a living heritage of song born in poverty, persecution, and hard labor, born of love and love betrayed, of holiness and sin, the pleasures and the pains of the flesh, the experience of tragedy, comedy, drunkenness, despair, desolation, and pure joy. It is the blues.

At root, the blues is rich in its simplicity, but it has flowered across the years in a variety of rare complexity. Perhaps no form of popular art is more immediately appealing than the blues, yet so rewards a thorough knowledge of its finer points. In eleven authoritative essays commissioned especially for the book, Nothing But the Blues traces the African-American origins of the music, its early development as popular entertainment, its early recorded manifestations, its regional differentiation (Mid-South, Tidewater-Piedmont, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Los Angeles), its many stylistic dimensions, and its contemporary manifestations. Country blues, urban blues, the evolution of rhythm and blues, rock n roll, and the blues revival are all fully covered.

But the written history is only part of the story. Blues fans have always treasured rare photographs of their heroes, and Nothing But the Blues is gloriously illustrated with posed and candid shots of the musicians as well as photographs of such one-of-a-kind artifacts and documents as Leadbellys NYPD rap sheet and classic recording contracts. Nothing But the Blues features an introduction by one of the genres living legends, B. B. King, and a comprehensive "best of the best" discography, including current and rereleased recordings as well as the collectors treasures to go after.

Blues is more popular than ever before. Not only are reissues of historical blues classics selling in unprecedented numbers, but a whole new crop of vital young blues artists is active in clubs and on record today. Nothing But the Blues is a lavishly illustrated comprehensive history of the music and the musicians, as well as the promoters, producers, and others who have shaped--and continue to shape--this powerful and enduringly popular American musical art form.

Blues historian Lawrence Cohn is the producer of a massive blues reissue project undertaken by Sony Music/Legacy Recordings. The premiere two-CD set in the series, featuring the music of blues giant Robert Johnson, not only earned Cohn a Grammy award, but has sold some half-million copies in the U.S. alone--an unprecedented number for a historical reissue.

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