Broadcasting the Blues
Black Blues in the Segregation Era
By Paul Oliver
Routledge – 2006 – 210 pages
Broadcasting the Blues: Black Blues in the Segregation Era is based on Paul Oliver's award-winning radio broadcasts from the BBC that were created over several decades. It traces the social history of the blues in America, from its birth in the rural South through the heyday of sound recordings. Noted blues scholar Paul Oliver draws on decades of research and personal interviews with performers--some of whom he "discovered" and recorded for the first time--to draw a picture of how the blues aesthetic developed, giving new insights into the role blues played in American society before racial integration.
The book begins by outlining the history of the blues from African music through country stomps, ragtime songs, and field hollers. From the heroic figures of black folksong--including the steel-driving railroad worker John Henry and the destructive Boll Weevil--to the content of the emerging blues, the author discusses the "meaning" behind the often coded words of the blues, evoking topics such as playful sexuality, magic and medicine, the stresses of segregation, and commentary on national events. Finally, the author traces the history of blues documentation, showing how our views of the early blues have been shaped through a complex interplay of social forces, and indicating possible lines for future research.
"For the past half-century Paul Oliver, more than any other writer, has established and defined the topics for discussion in the blues field. Broadcasting the Blues collects radio scripts that he has written over this period, reflecting his broad interests in the blues: its historical and stylistic development, its relationship to African-American culture and history, its lyric themes, its sources in African music and older American folk and popular music, its status as performing art and literary expression, and the history of blues research itself. In a very readable form it summarizes the subjects covered in Oliver's many books on the blues, presenting his vast knowledge and insight to a new generation of readers." -- David Evans, The University of Memphis
"As a founding father of blues literature, Paul Oliver has introduced my generation and beyond to the complex social history behind our treasured record collections. Now his BBC radio scripts (with annotations of records played) have been retrieved from the airwaves to add to Paul's valuable blues bibliography - for the further education of us all." -- John Broven, Author of 'Rhythm & Blues in New Orleans' and 'South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous'
"Paul Oliver is one of the world's foremost experts on the Blues idiom, and this text serves as an impeccable summary of the most influential and wide-reaching of all music movements." -- Electric Review
"With its unusual insights into the world of blues broadcasting and history alike, Oliver's perspective provides a unique survey indeed." --The Midwest Book Review
Paul Oliver is a world-renowned authority on the blues. He was among the first to write seriously about the music, and his many acclaimed books include Blues Feel This Morning, Conversation with the Blues, The Story of the Blues, and Savannah Syncopators. He lives in Oxfordshire, England.