Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 1993.
The bluesmen were the bards of America’s last frontier, the rowdy Mississippi Delta, in the days of the cotton boom, of levee and railroad building. Alan Lomax takes us on an adventure into the “bad old days” of the Delta. Weaving together the tales of muleskinners and roustabouts, church matrons and convicts, children and blind street singers, Lomax gives us the rich, sorrow-ridden background of the blues. We meet Muddy Waters (the father of modern blues), learn how Robert Johnson met his end, and are introduced to Fred McDowell and Son House, who taught Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton how to play the blues. In pre-integration days, when Lomax, a Southerner, first began his research, custom forbade a white man to socialize or even shake hands with a black. Despite threats of jail and violence, Lomax broke through the veil of silence that up till the 1940s had concealed the life of blacks in the Deep South. For the first time the people in these lower depths told the story of their humiliation and exploitation—of…[more]