Before there was Elvis, there was W.C. Handy, "the man who made the blues." Here is the first major biography in decades of the man who produced iconic songs and who was responsible, more than any other musician, for bringing the blues into the American mainstream.
Francis Davis's 'The History of the Blues' is a groundbreaking rethinking of the blues that fearlessly examines how race relations have altered perceptions of the music. Tracing its origins from the Mississippi Delta to its amplification in Chicago right after World War II, Davis argues for an examination of the blues in its own right, not just as a precursor to jazz and rock 'n' roll. The lives of major figures such as Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, and Leadbelly, in addition to contemporary artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan andRobert Cray, are examined and skillfully woven into a riveting, provocative narrative.
Superbly researched and vividly written, 'The Devil's Music' is one of the only books to trace the rise and development of the blues both in relation to other forms of black music and in the context of American social history as experienced by African Americans. From its roots in the turn-of-the-century honky-tonks of New Orleans and the barrelhouses and plantations of the Mississippi Delta to modern legends such as John Lee Hooker and B. B. King, the blues comes alive here through accounts by the blues musicians themselves and those who knew them. Throughout this wide-ranging and fascinating book, Giles Oakley describes the texture of the life that made the blues possible, and the changing attitudes toward the music. 'The Devil's Music' is a wholehearted and loving examination of one of America's most powerful traditions.