In the late 1970s and early 1980s, British blues fan Alan Harper became a transatlantic pilgrim to Chicago. "I've come here to listen to the blues," he told an American customs agent at the airport, and listen he did, to the music in its many styles, and to the men and women who lived it in the city's changing blues scene. Harper's eloquent memoir conjures the smoky redoubts of men like harmonica virtuoso Big Walter Horton and pianist Sunnyland Slim. Venturing from stageside to kitchen tables to the shotgun seat of a 1973 Eldorado, Harper listens to performers and others recollect memories of triumphs earned and chances forever lost, of deep wells of pain and soaring flights of inspiration. Harper also chronicles a time of change, as an up-tempo, whites-friendly blues eclipsed what had come before, and old Southern-born black players held court one last time before an all-conquering generation of young guitar aces took center stage.

This is a wonderful written book about Alvin Harper’s travel from Britain to Chicago in 1979. He was wanting to meet, listen, and talk to some of the musicians that he had been listening to for years at a college library on old 78’s. He even had a suitcase full of cassettes of his recordings telling a customs agent, “I’m here to listen to some blues”. Going to Chicago he gives you that back story the blues music, and how it made its way from the Delta to Chicago. Going into detail about the club he was going into and the musicians he was listen to and hoping he could speak to as well. Some or I should say quite a few did talk to him, but there were those who did not talk to foe different reasons. He mentions some of them if they made a tour to Europe, and how when the British invasion started it was a blues invasion in London and other parts of Europe. Some of the blues artists were actually bigger over there than they were here. It was like when it was like when Louis Armstrong went to Paris and became a star long before he was here and still was more popular in Europe than the U.S. that was for some blues players the same. He also touches on how some of the older blues players felt ripped off by white musicians, but also by a few African American record producers. They felt either stole their music or just outright the entire song. Even in 79 some of the older musicians were still alive who had come up from the Delta and some still did not read and write and were taken advantage of when it came to signing contracts. He does talk about players that are hard to find today. Some you can find as back up musicians on some of the older blues records, but finding these are difficult. Not all of them have been put to cd or even saved to the internet. His last part of the book is about Buddy Guy, how he started, who he was playing behind, and when he and Junior Wells got together. Being a blues fan that is really some good music. He talks about Buddy up to and into the 80’s, but now he is huge. Even in the 80’s I had friends who did not know who he was. He talks a little about Stevie Ray Vaughan who had just played guitar on David Bowie’s China Doll, right before he got big, but he was still known as Jimmy’s little brother. For me there was one harp player he listened to by the name of Sly Johnson who could play the as good as Sonny James. Now that is saying something. He also played a mean guitar and had few hit records. I could go on about this book but I would just bore some people, me I’m going to listen to some music. A very, very, good book. I got this book from netgalley. I gave it 5 stars. Follow us at www.1rad-readerreviews.com

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