Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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CONTENTS

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pp. vii-x

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. xi-xii

... And regular heartfelt thanks go to others who helped: Luther Brown, Don Bailey, John Ruskey, Eddie Cusic, Billy Johnson,Andy Hackleman, Steven Johnson, C. W. Gatlin, Dorothy Moore, Ben Payton, George Vasquez, Mary Shepard, Connie Gibbons, Robert Hirsberg, Bubba Sullivan, T-Model Ford, Lightnin’ Malcolm, Aikei Pro, Ray Autry,Mary Hurt Wright, Euphus “Butch”Ruth Jr., ...

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Chapter 1: Looking for the Blues [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 3-21

... “There were businesses all up and down this street,”Messenger says, thinking back to his childhood.“On Saturday night the whole area was crowded, food was cooking—barbecue, fish, tamales. The sharecroppers would come into town to have a good time. But the cotton harvester and the casinos ruined business.” ...

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Chapter 2: Memphis [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 23-53

The railroads, the highways, and the river all lead to Memphis— and bring the people and the music. Although it is in Tennessee, Memphis functions as the cultural and economic capital of North Mississippi. ...

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Chapter 3: Down Highway 61 [Includes Image Plate]

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pp. 55-79

Thus sang Mississippi Fred McDowell. Other versions put the starting point in Detroit and have it end at the border of New Mexico. Actually, it extends past Duluth,Minnesota, up to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, and down to New Orleans. Highway 61 runs the full length of the Mississippi Delta, Memphis to Vicksburg, passing through or near most major towns. ...

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Chapter 4: The Clarksdale Area

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pp. 81-104

When the railroads supplanted the river as the area’s main artery, inland Clarksdale’s importance surpassed that of older riverside towns like Vicksburg and Natchez. Clarksdale’s location became even more strategic when the highways came in. The Illinois Central Railroad and highways 61 and 49 all intersected here, helping make it the richest town in the Delta, the cotton capital. ...

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Chapter 5: The Mid-Delta [Includes Image Plate]

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pp. 105-128

Tutwiler is where W. C. Handy had a blues epiphany. While waiting for a train here in 1903, he heard a “lean, loose-jointed Negro” play knife-slide guitar and sing, over and over, “Goin’ where the Southern cross the Dog.” Handy considered that “the weirdest music I had ever heard.” He soon wrote and published some of the first compositions based on the blues and using the word “blues” in the title. One of those was “Yellow Dog Blues,” incorporating ...

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Chapter 6: The Greenwood Area [Includes Image Plate]

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pp. 131-149

The welcome signs note that Greenwood is the Cotton Capital of the World, and a billboard labels the town “Home of Mississippi’s most productive workforce.” To blues fans, this town of twenty thousand on the eastern edge of the Delta is where Robert Johnson sang his last song and died so young. ...

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Chapter 7: Greenville to Vicksburg [Includes Image Plate]

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pp. 151-181

The Delta’s largest city, Greenville has a long blues heritage centered on its infamous Nelson Street. It also hosts the region’s biggest and oldest blues festival. In recent years, spurred by the development of waterfront casinos, Greenville nightlife has heated up. The music scene has moved, however, from authentic-but-decaying Nelson to the newly redeveloped Walnut Street, closer to ...

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Chapter 8: The Jackson Area

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pp. 183-222

The state capital, being outside the Delta, does not conjure up “blues” in the popular imagination the way other Mississippi locations do. Even those on the Library of Congress field-recording trips largely ignored Jackson, presuming that it was too urban to have real folk singers. ...

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Chapter 9: East Mississippi [Includes Image Plate]

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pp. 213-225

Although it is on the opposite side of the state, the area between Meridian and Tupelo resembles the Delta in some places, with soybeans and sometimes cotton growing on flat prairies. A handful of great musicians come from this region. And the residents of this area seem to recognize their musicians as heroes, ...

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Chapter 10: North Mississippi Hill County

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pp. 227-249

The great folklorist Alan Lomax described what he heard in North Mississippi in the 1940s and 1950s as “an early phase of African-American music—not only that, but a clear revival of African tradition, kept alive in the Mississippi backwoods . . . we have found instruments, musical styles, and dancing that link the black South to the black Caribbean and, no question of it, to the dance of Africa as well.” ...

RECOMMENDED READING

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pp. 251-252

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

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pp. 253-258

INDEX

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pp. 259-276