Sunday, June 26, 2011

Broonzy Biographer Bob Riesman Coming to DC's Politics and Prose July 7

Since today is what would be the 98th Birthday of Big Bill Broonzy. it is appropriate to alert folks around Washington DC about the upcoming appearance in Washington by Broonzy biographer Bob Riesman.

Thursday evening, July 7, Bob Riesman, author of “I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy” (2011 University of Chicago Press) will be appearing at Politics and Prose to discuss his biography of the Chicago blues legend who passed away over half a century ago, but whose music and life still influences the blues world of today. He is scheduled to speak starting at 7:00PM

On its website, Politics and Prose ( notes “Riesman’s life of Big Bill Broonzy (1903-1958) encompasses the bluesman’s many pivotal roles. From melding the traditional, rural blues of his native Arkansas Delta region with the urban sound in 1930s Chicago, to influencing the resurgence of folk music after World War II and inspiring the blues-rock musicians of the 1960s, Broonzy was a key figure for 20th-century popular music.”

Riesman, in compiling this biography did considerable research as well as interviewed countless people including “ including blues man Billy Boy Arnold (who was mentored by Big Bill and is scheduled to have an album of Broonzy’s music released), members of Broonzy’s family, Bill Randle who produced the last interviews of Broonzy, Studs Terkel, David ’Honeyboy’ Edwards, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Pete Seeger, Rambling Jack Elliott, Jody Williams, Jimmie Lee Robinson and Ron Sweetman. He also explored the archives of Yannick Bruynoghe, and Jim O’Neal provided tapes of an interview with Blind John Davis and a transcript of one with Memphis Slim.

In his research of Broonzy, Riesman was able to ascertain that Big Bill Broonzy’s real name is Lee Bradley and he was born in Jefferson County, Arkansas on June 26, 1903, the fourth and last boy of Frank and Mittie Bradley, and the Bradley Family lived in Jefferson County outside Pine Bluff from the 1880s through the 1920s. Riesman traces his musical and recording career, including both his prominence in the Chicago blues from the thirties until his death, the significant role he played in establishing the folk music circuit as his pioneering tours of Europe.

In a May 2 review on this blog, I concluded “I Feel So Good was a compelling read and a biography worthy of the subject, whose blues are timeless. Highly recommended.” Politics and Prose is located at 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 and the phone number is 202-364-1919 or 800-722-0790. Directions to it can be found on their web page.

Bob Riesman is also scheduled to appear on Sirius-XM’s B.B. King’s Bluesville with Bill Wax on Monday, July 11, although as I post this it is not clear whether he will be on live or taped for later broadcast.

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