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Blues Is a Feeling: Voices and Visions of African-American Blues Musicians

Fraher, James

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ISBN 10: 1883953251 / ISBN 13: 9781883953256
Published by Face to Face Books, Mt. Horeb, WI, 1998
Condition: Fine Hardcover
From Jack Skylark's Books (West Covina, CA, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

Book and BroDart protected jacket are without faults. Gift quality. The "Blues is a Feeling" is a book for the followers of blues music, photographic book collectors, and readers interested in African-American studies in music and culture. 100 black-and-white duotone photographs by photographer and writer James Fraher. Signed on the title page by Fraher. First edition / first printing. Ships in bubble wrap in box. Foreign shipping will require additional postage. Bookseller Inventory # PC 21-3

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Blues Is a Feeling: Voices and Visions of ...

Publisher: Face to Face Books, Mt. Horeb, WI

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


Features blues musicians, including Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, and Willie Kent

From the Author:

In 1968, when I was home from college for a weekend, some friends and I went to see Muddy Waters at a club in Old Town in Chicago. I'll never forget it. The band warmed up for thirty minutes, the audience was ready, then Muddy came out, playing and singing right in front of us. I'm still not sure who was in his band at that time but it was a great Chicago-style blues band. The band consisted of harmonica, piano, guitar, bass, and drums. By the time they played I Got My Mojo Working, the club was jumping with excitement. That did it for me. I've been hooked ever since.

Around 1970, I went to the Quiet Knight, a folk music club in Chicago. There I made my first performance photographs of blues musicians, Lightnin' Hopkins and Bukka White. A few years later I started going out to hear more artists: Big Walter Horton, Howling Wolf, Carey Bell, Hound Dog Taylor, James Cotton, Johnny Young, Sam Lay, Lucille Spann and others. I didn't even think to bring a camera. Somehow, just being there was enough.

After finishing a degree in photography at college, I started teaching and practicing photography as a fine art form. During that time my interest grew to include many types of music from folk to rock to classical to bluegrass to blues. Music has always inspired and sustained my creativity.

I credit my interest in oral history and the spoken word to the hours spent listening to Chicago author and radio host, Studs Terkel. His love of music, his interviews with his radio guests, and his books of interviews, Hard Times and Working, affected me deeply. Also, the works by the Farm Security Administration photographers of the late 1930s and a book of photographs and quotes by Bill Owens called Suburbia have given me much inspiration.

In 1977 my wife Connie Scanlon and I travelled to Ireland for a one-year sabbatical to photograph and visit relatives. The one-year stay turned into two years. We photographed, listened to friends and relatives telling stories, played music with traditional Irish musicians, travelled and absorbed a culture. I brought one blues tape with us and played it often. When we returned to the States in 1979, one of our first musical outings was to hear Muddy Waters. This time I made sure I took some photographs of him performing.

The experiences of listening to people in Ireland tell stories about their culture, combined with a great desire to hear live blues and a realization that if you don't take the photograph now, you may never have the chance again-these thoughts have led me to pursue this project. It is a wonderful feeling when you put together what comes easy to you with the allure of a subject and begin to follow those instincts.

Beginning in 1984 at a tribute to Sunnyland Slim on Labor Day, I began to photograph African-American blues musicians at different events in Chicago. This led to being introduced by a musician friend of mine, Chuck Goering, to a number of blues musicians including Louis and Dave Myers, Sunnyland Slim, and Floyd Jones. I will never forget the day we helped Sunnyland Slim get a tire changed on his station wagon and then proceeded to go find Willie Johnson to meet and photograph him. That same day Chuck introduced me to Otis "Big Smokey" Smothers. This marked the beginning of a friendship which lasted until Smokey's death in 1993.

As this experience of meeting and photographing musicians continued, I realized I was documenting a part of blues history that was vanishing. This thought has stayed with me as I photographed and interviewed many of the elders of the blues, including Robert Lockwood Jr., David "Honeyboy" Edwards, and Johnny Shines, all who had rubbed shoulders with the great Robert Johnson. When I had the opportunity to photograph some of the great piano players-Sunnyland Slim in Chicago and Mose Vinson and Booker T. Laury in Memphis-it was a powerful feeling to be in their presence.

It would be difficult to say which experiences have been the best, but they include the time spent with Johnny Shines at his hotel room. Gatemouth Brown pulling up outside the studio in his bus and then bringing out all his guitars and fiddles for a final shot. Riding with Jack Owens into town in his pickup truck at five miles an hour. Spending a day with Robert Lockwood Jr. in Cleveland to create a cover photo for Living Blues Magazine. Getting lost in North Carolina on our way to meet Algia Mae Hinton. Helping Sam Carr drag out his drums into the late afternoon sun and making the final shots with his Honda motorcycle. And lastly, travelling to Houston, Texas, to meet so many of the city's fine musicians including Martha Turner, Texas Johnny Brown, and the great Big Walter The Thunderbird.

For me this book celebrates a desire to make a personal contribution to the documented history of the blues, one that honors the musician through the process of making an intimate photograph. This collaboration is a ritual I have enjoyed repeating over and over again.

During the interview which may occur prior to or months later after the portrait has been made, I always hope during the course of the conversation that each musician will have something unique to say about life and their career in blues music, something to give some insight into what the blues really is. Whether offering a single piece of wisdom or a personal story, they never let me down. When I asked the question, "What does the blues mean to you?" the one thing everyone agreed on was, "The blues is a feeling." I honor that feeling with this book of photographs.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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