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Early Blues

The First Stars of Blues Guitar

2015
Author:

Jas Obrecht

Early Blues

Blues Book of the Year — 2016 Living Blues Critics' Poll

 

The history of early blues guitar, with portraits of its pioneers and first stars

Since the early 1900s, blues and the guitar have traveled side by side. From the first reported sightings of blues musicians to the onset of the Great Depression, this is the most comprehensive and complete account ever written of the early stars of blues guitar—an essential chapter in the history of American music. 

 

"Jas Obrecht eloquently describes the pioneers and shows how they defined the sound of blues guitar for future generations." William Ferris, author of Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues

Since the early 1900s, blues and the guitar have traveled side by side. This book tells the story of their pairing from the first reported sightings of blues musicians, to the rise of nationally known stars, to the onset of the Great Depression, when blues recording virtually came to a halt.

Like the best music documentaries, Early Blues: The First Stars of Blues Guitar interweaves musical history, quotes from celebrated musicians (B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Ry Cooder, and Johnny Winter, to name a few) and a spellbinding array of life stories to illustrate the early days of blues guitar in rich and resounding detail. In these chapters, you’ll meet Sylvester Weaver, who recorded the world’s first guitar solos, and Paramount Records artists Papa Charlie Jackson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Blind Blake, the “King of Ragtime Blues Guitar.” Blind Willie McTell, the Southeast’s superlative twelve-string guitar player, and Blind Willie Johnson, street-corner evangelist of sublime gospel blues, also get their due, as do Lonnie Johnson, the era’s most influential blues guitarist; Mississippi John Hurt, with his gentle, guileless voice and syncopated fingerpicking style; and slide guitarist Tampa Red, “the Guitar Wizard.”

Drawing on a deep archive of documents, photographs, record company ads, complete discographies, and up-to-date findings of leading researchers, this is the most comprehensive and complete account ever written of the early stars of blues guitar—an essential chapter in the history of American music.

Awards

Blues Book of the Year from Living Blues

Association for Recorded Sound Collections – Best Historical Research in Blues, Gospel, Soul, or R&B. Certificate of Merit.

Early Blues

Jas Obrecht is an award-winning music journalist and former editor for Guitar Player magazine. He has written for Rolling Stone, Living Blues, Blues Revue, and many other publications. His books include Rollin' & Tumblin’: The Postwar Blues Guitarists and Blues Guitar: The Men Who Made the Music.

Early Blues

Jas Obrecht eloquently describes the pioneers and shows how they defined the sound of blues guitar for future generations.

William Ferris, author of Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues

Jas Obrecht has long been recognized for his writing on the blues and he shows a keen grasp of both the music of these guitar masters and the life experiences that shaped their blues. No other book has been written with this particular focus, and Obrecht offers material that will be new even to readers who have been familiar with this music for many years.

Jim O’Neal, founding co-editor, Living Blues magazine

Early Blues: The First Stars of Glues Guitar shines a light on an era of blues history that warrants historical and critical examination. Obrecht does not disappoint; he has delivered a tightly focused and meticulously researched study of the first generation of blues guitar heroes.

Living Blues Magazine

If you have the slightest interest in blues, guitar, or traditional American music, do not hesitate and purchase this book as soon as you can. It is a textual and visual treat, something that all too seldom comes our way and Jas Obrecht, as expected, has done a brilliant job. You'll not only be proud to have this volume on your bookshelf, you will undoubtedly wear out the pages by constantly referring to it for the endless amount of information and enjoyment that it provides.

Lawrence Cohn, producer of Grammy-winning Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings and author of Nothing But the Blues

If you love the blues you owe yourself a journey into its primordial years. No question, Early Blues is a fine place to begin exploring this rich, complex American music.

Vintage Guitar

Blues aficionados will find the material familiar and inspiring and it will prompt one to reference recordings perhaps long unheard. For the serious blues novice as well as long time fans.

Cadence Jazz & Blues Magazine

It’s not merely a book for guitarists, though any serious guitarist would benefit greatly from Obrecht’s depth of knowledge and the superb detail he provides regarding guitar models, tunings, chord progressions and the like for each of his chosen subjects. His erudition on such matters illuminates and entertains in a way that few books of this sort do.

Vivascene

Any reader can count on a well-written, well-researched and very readable account of the ground it covers, thoroughly worthy of attention on that basis.

Blues & Rhythm

This book is a must for anyone serious about the blues.

CHOICE

[An] excellently researched book that will delight blues fans.

Jive Talk

Former Guitar Player editor Obrecht warmly and affectionately introduces us to the beauty and the intricacies of these guitarists' music. His portraits provide an essential starting point for our understanding of blues and blues guitar and urge us to listen to these musicians' recordings for ourselves.

No Depression

Early Blues

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Sylvester Weaver: The First Blues Guitarist on Record
Papa Charlie Jackson: Six-String Stylist, Flat-Picking Pioneer
Blind Lemon Jefferson: Popular from Coast to Coast
Blind Blake: King of Ragtime Blues Guitar
Blind Willie McTell: Atlanta’s Twelve-String King
Blind Willie Johnson: Sublime Gospel Blues
Lonnie Johnson: The Era’s Most Influential Blues Guitarist
Mississippi John Hurt: Songster and Bluesman
Tampa Red: “The Guitar Wizard”
Notes
Index