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Long Lost Blues: Popular Blues in America, 1850-1920 (Music in American Life) Hardcover – January 6, 2010

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Product Details

  • Series: Music in American Life
  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; 1st Edition edition (January 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252034872
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252034879
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.9 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,374,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews



"Required reading for lovers of the blues and historians of American popular music."--Notes

Book Description

Mamie Smith's 1920 recording of "Crazy Blues" is commonly thought to signify the beginning of commercial attention to blues music and culture, but by that year more than 450 other blues titles had already appeared in sheet music and on recordings. In this examination of early popular blues, Peter C. Muir traces the genre's early history and the highly creative interplay between folk and popular forms, focusing especially on the roles W. C. Handy played in both blues music and the music business.


Long Lost Blues exposes for the first time the full scope and importance of early popular blues to mainstream American culture in the early twentieth century. Closely analyzing sheet music and other print sources that have previously gone unexamined, Muir revises our understanding of the evolution and sociology of blues at its inception.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Richard Fannan on January 28, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Blues as a separate musical form begins around 1900 and achieves mass popularity with Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues in 1920. But before 1920, the musical form and the term had started entering the popular consciousness.. This book examines the 500 or so printed songs which had the term blues in their title before 1920. Although some of the book requires the ability to read music, people with less musical acumen (like myself) can skim over those discussions. The book is a fascinating study of this neglected period and the way in which "blues" entered the popular zeitgeist.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Scott on August 21, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book on a topic that was long overdue. Not only anyone interested in early popular blues but anyone interested in early folk blues needs to read it (and like Abbott and Seroff's books, it's so richly detailed that I'd suggest owning it). Muir focuses on the earliest tunes that had "Blues" in the title and were published or copyrighted, and compares them to each other with great attention to chronology to reason out how blues music and related music was evolving during 1895-1920. He also has done meticulous work finding early published tunes that had 12-bar progressions in them but did not have "Blues" in the title, such as "You Needn't Come Home" by Hughie Cannon, 1901. He even discusses tunes that had what we think of as basically the 12-bar blues progression buried within other progressions, such as "Texas Rag" by Callis Jackson, 1905. (He doesn't attempt an exhaustive look at early published songs that had "blues" in the lyrics but not in the title.) The approving blurbs on the back of this book are from no less than Tim Brooks (the greatest writer on pre-"Crazy Blues" black American recorded music) and Dick Spottswood (the country blues expert who was friends with Mississippi John Hurt). If you want to understand, to give a random example, why Gus Cannon would have been learning a partly 12-bar song with "goo goo eyes" in the lyrics from a friend in roughly 1905, this book will give you context. If you want to understand why the first person to publish a partly 12-bar "Blues" (who was born in Italy) later had a public beef with W.C. Handy, this book will give you carefully worked out details on that issue. If you aspire to understand what playing "crooked" had to do with black folk blues early on, reading about Euday Bowman's work will help.Read more ›
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