Blues Unlimited: Essential Interviews From The Original Blues Magazine
Edited by Bill Greensmith, Mike Rowe and Mark Camarigg
University of Illinois Press
Part of the "Music in American Life" series this new volume contains a number of important interviews from this pioneering publication which I was a subscriber to (and even made a few modest contributions to over four decades ago). Bill Greensmith and Mike Rowe were important contributors to Blues Unlimited and Mark Camarigg played an important role in the production of this volume. The editors provide an overview of the publication's history and the various artists whose interviews are reprinted here. They also update and correct some of the interviews here. They note that they have not included some interviews where they were superseded by interviews elsewhere.
Included are interviews with some legendary figures as well as others who likely are not as well known among those who are blues fans today. The volume is split up regionally with the first part (and lengthiest part) devoted to Chicago with interviews of Freddie King, Jimmy Walker, Louis Myers, Red Holloway, Fred Below, and Moody Jones, Floyd Jones and Snooky Pryor. While King and Cotton are the best known of these performers, there is plenty of blues history to be learned here. Most intriguing among the Detroit artists considered is the piece on the great pianist, Big Maceo based on Rowe's interviews with Maceo's widow and pianist Boogie Woogie Red.
The lengthiest interview here is with Jimmy Thomas and goes into his lengthy time with Ike Turner starting in St. Louis. Another St. Louis artist interviewed was Fontella Bass, recalling her days with Oliver Sain and recording "Rescue Me." Arguably the most significant interview with Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup is included. Blues Unlimited played a major role in promoting Houston one-man band, Weldon 'Juke Boy' Bonner, so it is not a surprise to find his interview here, and many will find the 1979 interview of Albert Collins of great interest (I know I did). There is also an interview with Johnny Otis (although one wishes they had reprinted the series of interviews Otis did for the publication), Roy Brown, and two pioneering record men, Henry Glover and Ralph Bass.
This is an invaluable publication with over 400 pages of blues history source material in a large page format. It is an understatement to state this is a major addition to the blues bookshelf and if you have any serious blues lover, it would make a terrific gift.
I purchased this book. This is one of a number of short reviews I have written for the 2015 Holiday Gift Guide edition of Jazz & Blues Report which is available to download at jazz-blues.com.