Author Robert Gordon learned about the bluesmen in his backyard the way many a suburban teenage lad learned about the blues in the mid-1970s: He attended a Rolling Stones concert.
Metaphorically speaking, Gordon’s back yard was the Mississippi Delta, his hometown Memphis, and the Stones concert an outdoor bacchanal in the early July heat at the city’s biggest stadium (that last bit ain’t a metaphor).
Apparently Englishmen wither under the sweet summer sun, so while the band delayed their arrival onstage in the vain hope the heat would abate at sundown, they sent out a local musician in an attempt to, I don’t know, placate the masses while performing their ultimate mission (spreading them blues?)?
The local musician was 82-year-old Furry Lewis, who proceeded to tell a dirty joke then strum and sing away in the style of the performers who’d inspired the Rolling Stones in the first place: The Delta Bluesmen.
What many a teen boy did not realize back in those days — including me, same age as Gordon and set to see the Stones at the end of that month in an air-conditioned arena in Atlanta (unlike my childhood home, no AC in the hizzle, chew on that my Millenial friends!) — was that some of the blues’ progenitors, like Furry, were still alive and kickin’.
In Gordon’s case, at least a couple of these bluesmen were alive, kickin’ and even pickin’ in his immediate vicinity.
Eventually Gordon realized a lot more about his hometown and its vital contributions to modern music, and he turned those realizations into his book “It Came From Memphis.”
The 25-year-old tome recently was updated and re-released, and he discussed the book and its findings this week on the latest episode of Let It Roll.
As usual, it’s LItR episode well worth listening to, about a book well worth reading.
And that, loyal listeners who might be reading this blog post, concludes this, the 10th season, of Let It Roll.
I myself, the Freebird Yeller, am a loyal listener of said podcast, and I sho do plan on showing up for Season 11, in which I’m sure more will be revealed about how and why popular music happens.
Until then, keep on rollin’, my dude and dudette friends!
Ed Legge (@freebirdyeller) is a life-long musician, long-time journalist and sometime corporate dweeb who’s writing a book about originating rock ‘n’ roll’s most absurd tradition.