Documenting The Blues

Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
01Blues And Gospel Records 1890-19431997101119971017

In the first of eight programmes examining the many assumptions made about early black music, Paul Oliver talks to Howard Rye, compiler of the discography `Blues and Gospel Records 1890-1943'; to Robert Macleod, who has set himself the task of transcribing the lyrics of all these records; and to Johnny Parth, who is involved in releasing on CD some of the twelve thousand titles recorded for black audiences in America up to 1942.

02Classic Blues1997101819971024

In the second of eight programmes, Paul Oliver looks at how blues singers are classified, particularly the all-embracing title of `classic blues'. What does it mean? How did it come into general use? And is it adequate to describe so broad a range of singers as Ma Rainey, Edith Wilson, Lizzie Miles, Gladys Bentley and Eva Taylor?

031997102519971031

In the third of eight programmes, Paul Oliver looks at the tradition of vocal quartets which anticipated the blues. He suggests that they were the link between the African-American traditions of the late 19th century and the blues singers of this century, and examines the influence of groups such as the Dinwiddie Colored Quartet, the Excelsior Quartette and the Norfolk Jazz Quartet.

041997110119971107

In the fourth of eight programmes, Paul Oliver discusses what became of the black rural string band tradition. In the early part of the century, they were to be found in the southern-most communities of America but were seldom recorded. Perhaps the most celebrated band was the Mississippi Sheiks, made up of the sons of Henderson Chatman, a former slave. Occasionally, the bands added novelty instruments like the wasboard or the jug, like the Birmingham Jug Band.

051997110819971114

In the fifth of eight programmes, Paul Oliver discusses a neglected form of the blues called hokum. Many African-American singers in the 1920s and 1930s expressed their feelings of melancholy or repression through the music and lyrics of the blues, but hokum depended on parody and humour to meet the needs of migrants to the cities.

061997111519971121

It is widely acknowledged that the blues was a major influence on early jazz, which went on to develop as a distinctive form of music. In the sixth of eight programmes, Paul Oliver argues that recorded evidence suggests that the relationship of jazz and blues needs to be reconsidered. He introduces examples of jazz accompaniments to blues singers by Freddie Keppard, Punch Miller and Odell Rand.

071997112219971128

In the seventh of eight programmes, Paul Oliver discusses field recordings of the black American folk songs made for the archives of the Library of Congress and now issued on Johnny Parth's Document label. The recordings were made mainly by John A Lomax and his son Alan, but there were significant contributions by other collectors, some of them African-Americans.

08 LAST1997112919971205

Many blues singers devised their own lyrics and tunes, but in the last of the series Paul Oliver considers the forgotten people in recorded blues - the singwriters, like Tom Delaney and Jimmy Oden.