Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Stories of The Chitlin' Circuit and Bettye LaVette

With the holidays approaching, there are plenty of books that might be of interest to those in your lives with interests in blues and jazz. A few days ago I posted a review of Ted Gioia’s The Jazz Standards. Here are a couple more books you might consider giving. 

The Chitlin’ Circuit

Preston Lauterbach’s The Chitlin’ Circuit and the Road to Rock’N’Roll (New York: Norton) is a fascinating look at the development of the string of clubs and joints that emerged after the fall of the Theatre Owners Booking Association (T.O.B.A.) Circuit. Lauterbach’s inspiration to write this book was a story he did on Bobby Rush for Living Blues. In it he introduces us to Sax Kari, a recording artist whose career went back to the 1920s with Butterbeans and Suzie. Kari then introduces us to an Indianopolis nightclub boss and racketeer neamed Denver Furguson and how in the 1930s he helped started what became known as The Chitlin Circuit.

In the early days, the Chicago big band leader, Walter Barnes, was among teh first to have tours arranged for him. Barnes, who recorded ten titles in the 1920s, was also a correspondent for the Chicago Defender, who contributed dispatches from the road in addition to the various stories he contributed on the black entertainment world. Its fascinating to learn his biography as well as his tragic, and heroic death, in the Natchez Fire in 1940 whose impact was still felt when Howlin Wolf recorded a song over a decade ago. Barnes and Ferguson are only some of the intriguing people we meet. Enabling Louis Jordan to tour was one way the Circuit started to develop. We also find the interrelationship between record companies and booking agents as well. 

The Chitlin’ Circuit and the Road to Rock’N’Roll is a book from which I learned much and it is a very lively read. It has been available over a year and if you may have missed it, I do recommend it highly.

Bettye LaVette

David Ritz has assisted another legend from the rhythm and blues world with an autobiography. A Women Like Me from Bettye LaVette (New York: Blue Rider Press). Its a raw and compelling story that LaVette tells of a career marked by ups and downs and a life where she has been literally pimped out as well as had the fortune of being mentored and coming under the wings of those who truly cared her and helped her develop her talents. 

LaVette us from her musical upbringing in Detroit, her various recording efforts in the sixties and seventies with near brushes at stardom and the failure of various motherf******s to keep their word to the past decade or so where her star finally ascended to its rightful place. 

Be warned that the language here is raw and unfiltered and profane but the story rings with the truth of her recordings. This book has soul.

I purchased these books.

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