book/daddy: January 2009 Archives

"I've got the Dallas blues and the Main Street heart disease." This is "Dallas Blues" sung by Maggie Jones, the "Texas Nightingale" who was born in Hillsboro, Texas.

It's a minor song, but it's worth taking a look at for two reasons. First, Alan Govenar in his new book, Texas Blues, notes that "Dallas Blues" first appeared as sheet music in 1912, long before Maggie Jones recorded it.  In fact, it even appeared several months before W. C. Handy's "Memphis Blues." Many people still cite "Memphis Blues" as the first blues in print. It was a landmark moment because sheet music was the chief way songs were popularized then, and Handy, "the Father of the Blues," did much to give the music a nationwide listening audience.

But  it was "Dallas Blues" that first saw print. And that small fact highlights a major point made by Govenar: Texas can lay claim to being one of the birthplaces of the blues -- just like the Mississippi Delta.

It's not a contest over who came first. It's a question of what's been studied, what's gotten more attention. When Govenar came to Texas in 1974 as a graduate student in folklore, there was no single history devoted to  Texas blues.

By 1985, Govenar wrote one of the first. Since then, he's produced three more - along with documentary films, videos, oral histories, a children's book and a musical. His organization, Documentary Arts, is dedicated to preserving and presenting historically and culturally significant artworks.

Govenar's new book, Texas Blues, is a comprehensive compilation of his 25 years of research. It features more than one hundred profiles of Texas artists - most often in their own words -- with more than 500 photos.

GOVENAR: "I was surprised that there was so little written about Texas blues. So much of what had been written up to that time - and still today - is the Mississippi Delta sound, the Chicago blues sound. Certainly it was the music that was championed by the Rolling Stones and other British rock and rollers."

January 15, 2009 7:47 PM | | Comments (1)


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