The first blues star of black vaudeville was Butler ""String Beans"" May, a blackface comedian, pianist, singer, and dancer from Montgomery, Alabama. Before his senseless death in 1917, he was recognized as the ""blues master piano player of the world."" His legacy, elusive and previously unacknowledged, is preserved in the repertoire of country blues singer-guitarists and pianists of the Race recording era.
While male blues singers remained tethered to the role of blackface comedian, female ""coon shouters"" acquired a more dignified aura in the emergent persona of the ""blues queen."" Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and most of their contemporaries came through this portal; while others, including forgotten blues heroine Ora Criswell and her protege Trixie Smith, reconfigured the use of blackface for their own subversive purposes.
In 1921 black vaudeville was effectively nationalized by the Theater Owners Booking Association (T.O.B.A.). In collusion with the emergent Race recording industry, T.O.B.A. theaters featured touring companies headed by blues queens with records to sell. While the 1920s was the most celebrated and remunerative period of vaudeville blues, the previous decade was arguably the most creative, having witnessed the emergence, popularization, and early development of the original blues in southern theaters.
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
Number of pages: 480
Weight: 1157 g
Dimensions: 254 x 203 x 38 mm
I can't imagine a more complete assessment of this complex topic at this point in the twenty-first century: all the old performers are no longer with us to be interviewed. And there are a finite number of 'negro' newspapers to be read. The authors have done all the necessary research for us.--Living Blues
An invaluable musical history of the advent of the blues for those who want to dig in deep.--Gary von Tersch "Big City Rhythm and Blues "
Their work, based on meticulous and far-ranging research, is invaluable for its documentation of the history of African American music of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as for the authors' astute and politically engaged interpretations of their research findings.--George De Stefano "PopMatters "
This huge piece of work revives not only old times but gives the vivid background (in the idiom of the times) to the additional research that enlarges on band arrangements, travel and show schedules, the introduction of new songs and themes as well as changing management of theaters, booking organizations and marketing personnel.--Jive Talk
It's hard not to resort to hyperbole in writing about this book. There is much more between these covers than a review can mention, and all logically and elegantly organized. It breaks ground over which there has previously been nothing more than theorizing, much of it in pursuit of predetermined agendas with more than a hint of cultural colonialism in them. No one can ever again credibly write about the origins and early history of blues (or jazz) without taking account of the contents of this book. How much more essential than that can you get?--Howard Rye "Blues & Rhythm "