You may know more names in blues than you think. There’s Billie Holiday, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters, to name a few. And, if those names don’t ring a bell, well, that’s alright. This collection featuring 100 profiles of all-time great blues musicians, big names or not, will give you a look at the big picture.
William Stout has picked up where R. Crumb left off some years back in creating “trading card” portraits of blues legends. This has led to this beautiful and intriguing book published by Abrams ComicArts, “Legends of the Blues,” complete with Bonus CD! Here you have a very accessible guide to American blues with each portrait interconnected with the other. Each profile has an exquisitely drawn portrait, biography, and recommended songs attached to each performer.
Read the profile of B.B. King and learn how the electric guitar made its way into blues, ushering in rock ‘n’ roll. It was thanks to T-Bone Walker, the first blues musician to use an electric guitar. That fact is just as fascinating as viewing Michael J. Fox, as Marty McFly, in “Back To The Future,” accidentally inventing rock ‘n’ roll. Read further and you learn about how King nearly lost a beloved acoustic guitar to a fire that started from a fight over a woman named, Lucille. As a reminder to never fight over a woman, each of King’s Gibson guitars has been given the name, Lucille.
The stories here range from the tragic to the comical. Many are stories of lost childhood, like Billie Holiday; scrambling to carve out a career, like Robert Johnson; and ultimately finding fame fleeting and cruel, like Bessie Smith. And there are no end to interesting facts. One fine example is the story of Robert Petway. His claim to fame was his song, “Catfish Blues.” It was reworked by Muddy Waters and retitled, “Rollin Stone,” the namesake to one of England’s greatest rock bands of all time. As for Petway, the authorship of his hit song has been questioned and it is still unclear as to when he was born and when he died! Such is the life of a blues musician.