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The Guitar and the New World: A Fugitive History (Suny Series in Italian/American Culture) Paperback – July 2, 2014
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"Gioia's re-visioning of America's six-string past is a worthwhile trip to take ... even when he is tracing a path that is otherwise well blazed, Gioia's fugitive purpose of shining light on indigenous confluences of American roots music ultimately, like so many great epic destinations, and blues songs, brings it on home." -- Studies in Popular Culture"Gioia ... offer[s] some intriguing and meticulously researched theories on the blending of musical cultures in America." -- Publishers Weekly "Gioia has spun an odd web: Sicilian guitar-maker forebearers, a 111 year ago presidential assassination, a hypothesis that American Indians had as big an influence on blues roots as African Americans. Altogether, a deliberately spinning teacup ride of a book." -- Tony Glover, coauthor of Blues with a Feeling: The Little Walter Story "Inspired by an ancestor who emigrated from Sicily to Buffalo, New York, where he became a legendary luthier, Joe Gioia uses his personal history as a point of embarkation to explore the guitar's place in American roots music. From the Delta to Appalachia, and many points in between, this fascinating road map introduces readers to a cast of intriguing people and places." -- Holly George-Warren, author of Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry "The book is the best kind of American memoir, because it moves easily and naturally from one subject to another (apparently) quite different subject, adding up to an essay on what it means to be an American. It is ... the best non-fiction page-turner I have read in quite a while ... We need books like this one, lest we forget who we are." -- Donald Clarke, editor of The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music
About the Author
Joe Gioia was born in Rochester, New York, and is a graduate of Kenyon College. Formerly senior editor at Modern Photography and a contributing editor at American Photo, he was an early contributor to Salon.com and is the author of Divide’s Guide to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He lives in Chicago, where he is at work on a narrative history of photography.
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The primary thesis of the book, sure to be controversial, is that the Blues is mostly derived from Native American roots, rather than African. Gioia documents in some detail the fascinating history of how through the whole southeast including Appalachia but more, from the Florida Seminoles, West to Oklahoma, and up through the Northeast and upstate New York, there was not only large-scale inter-marriage but cultural interaction, especially musical.
Many Blues idioms, vocal and musical, go back to Native Americans. Howling Wolf claimed his Choctaw ancestry, but Muddy Waters is also an obviously Native American name. Gioia provides plenty of anecdotal and circumstantial evidence, all that is possible after the erasures of official history, including insight into the realities of slavery. One repellent but riveting example is how the term "Blues" derives from the toxic and nauseating indigo production. But after fifty years of extensive searching in Africa, nobody from musicologists to Buddy Guy have found anything like Blues musical patterns in Africa.
Discussions include Jimmy Rodgers, Charlie Patton, Eddie Lang, the Carter Family, Leadbelly, and many more, and Native American echoes appear in both Rock and Country music. Fascinating and highly readable, this is an important book, revealing a major contribution of Native Americans to mainstream American culture.