New York Blues Interviews 1947

In 1947 Alan Lomax recorded bluesmen Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Slim, and Sonny Boy Williamson on a Presto disc recording machine at Decca Studios in New York City after they had given concert at Town Hall. In a session of candid oral history and song, the three artists, Southern born but with established careers in Chicago, explained the origin and nature of the blues. “They began with blues as a record of the problems of love and women in the Delta world,” Lomax wrote. “They explored the cause of this in the stringent poverty of black rural life. They recalled life in the Mississippi work camps, where the penitentiary stood at the end of the road, waiting to receive the rebellious. Finally, they came to the enormities of the lynch system that threatened anyone who defied its rules.” The interviews were issued in a fictionalized form in the magazine Common Ground (1948) under the title “I Got the Blues,” but they were deemed so controversial that their audio release was delayed for ten years. When United Artists finally issued them in 1959 on LP as Blues in the Mississippi Night, Alan used pseudonyms at the artists’ request to shield their identities and protect family members who still lived in the South against possible reprisals — such was the reach of the prohibition against public commentary on Southern racial and labor conditions.

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Session Region,Country Date
Blues In the Mississippi Night interviews 3/47 New York, United States 3/2/1947
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