British Blues – Recommended Books

Recommended British Blues History Books

Here is a bibliography of blues books concerning the history of British Blues.

 


‘Blowing The Blues: A Personal History of British Blues’ by Dick Heckstall-Smith and Pete Grant

Dick – the king of British blues saxophone – describes the revolutionary founding years of British R&B with wonderful anecdotes about Ginger Baker, Alexis Korner, Charlie Watts and the unforgettable Graham Bond.

Publishers: Clear Press (2004)

ISBN: 978-1904555049

 

‘Blues In Britain’ by Bob Brunning (ex Fleetwood Mac / Savoy Brown)

The history of blues and R n’B in Britain from the tentative days on the 1950s to the thriving scene of the 1990s.

Publishers: Blandford (1995)

ISBN: 0-7137-2457-9

 

‘The Blues Revival’ by Bob Groom (Studio Vista Series Edited by Paul Oliver)

Bob Groom surveys the expanding popularity of the blues, from skiffle through rock n’ roll to the current interest in both old-time and modern forms, describing research, rediscoveries and recordings.

Publishers: Studio Vista (1971)

ISBN: 289-701-48-1

 

‘Blues: The British Connection’ by Bob Brunning (ex Fleetwood Mac / Savoy Brown)

Brunning’s book charts how London blues shows by US Bluesmen like Muddy Waters and Johnny Lee Hooker – then all but forgotten in their homeland – influenced a whole generation of British musicians from The Stones and The Animals to The Bluesbreakers and The Yardbirds.

Publishers: Blandford (1986)

ISBN: 978-0713718362

 

‘John Mayall : The Blues Crusader’ by Dinu Logos

John Mayall is an icon in the world of blues music and the Godfather of British blues. A pioneering musician, blues promoter and talent scout for over 50 years, his uncanny knack of picking young, talented musicians and then nurturing them in his bands is the stuff of legend. Under his guidance as leader and sometimes father figure, his groups developed into a blues school of learning par excellence.

Publishers: Edition Olms (2015)

ISBN: 978-3283012281

 

‘Alexis Korner: The Biography’ by Harry Shapiro

By the time Alexis Korner died in 1984 he had secured himself a place in history. Dubbed “the father of British blues”, he had become a mentor to generations of musicians. Out of Blues Incorporated, Korner’s original band, came bands, such as the Rolling Stones, Cream, the Animals, Free and Led Zeppelin.  This biography recounts Korner’s early life travelling around Europe and North Africa; his settling in wartime London, discovering jazz and blues from Soho record shops; his membership of Chris Barber’s jazz band; his role in the development of skiffle; his founding, with Cyril Davies, of the Blues and Barrelhouse Club and of Blues Incorporated; his inspirational effect on younger musicians; and his immensely successful radio show, “Blues is Where You Hear It”, which ran for 20 years. The book includes a comprehensive discography of Alexis Korner’s numerous recordings.

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (1997)

ISBN: 9780747531630

 

‘First Time We Met The Blues: A Journey of Discovery with Jimmy Page, Brian Jones, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’ by David Williams

David Williams grew up in Epsom, Surrey and was a childhood friend of future Led Zeppelin guitar legend, Jimmy Page. Together they discovered what was for them an intriguing and very different kind of music: the blues. As their interest grew into a passion, they befriended other teenage enthusiasts – among them Brian Jones, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards – becoming part of a movement that ultimately brought about the ’60s rock revolution. Part-biography, part-history, “The First Time We Met The Blues” is packed full of great anecdotes and unique insights into the early British blues scene, Page’s formative years as a musician, the beginnings of the Rolling Stones, and much more besides.

Publishers: Music Mentor Books (2009)

ISBN: 978-0954706814

 

‘Hoggin’ The Page – Groundhogs: The Classic Years’ by Martyn Hanson

The story of The Groundhogs spans the most exciting British rock will ever enjoy. Springing from the same early 1960s roots as the Animals, Pretty Things and Rolling Stones, they first made a reputation as a blues band backing the likes of John Lee Hooker on his tours of England.

Publishers: Northdown Publishing (2005)

ISBN: 1-900711-16-8

 

‘It Ain’t Easy: Long John Baldry and the Birth of the British Blues’ by Paul Myers

Drawing on intimate anecdotes from Baldry’s legendary friends, lovers, and peers, author Paul Myers uncovers the man behind the mythic persona. An entire generation of British rock legends flourished under Baldry’s tutelage, and It Ain’t Easy features exclusive personal recollections.

Publishers: Greystone Books (2007)

ISBN: 978-1553652007

 

‘Mothers (1968 – 1971) The Home of Good Sounds’ by Kevin Duffy (Forward by John Peel)

From 1968 – 1971 Mothers Club, Birmingham carved a niche in the history of rock music , being voted number one venue in the world by America’s Billboard Magazine. This book captures the spirit of the club, telling the story of its rise to fame as the mecca of the ‘underground’ music scene.

Publishers: Birmingham Library Services (1997)

ISBN: 0-7093-0217-7

 

‘Strange Brew: Eric Clapton and the British Blues Boom 1965-1970’ by Christopher Hjort (Forward by John Mayall)

This is the day-by-day story of the 60s British blues boom, centering on key guitarists Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and Mick Taylor and the groups that they played in from 1965 to 1970 – John’s Mayall’s Blues breakers, Cream, Fleetwood Mac, Blind Faith, The Rolling Stones, Delaney & Bonnie, and more.

Publishers: Jawbone (2007)

ISBN: 978-1906002008

 

‘White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s’ by Joe Boyd

When Muddy Waters came to London at the start of the 60s, a kid from Boston called Joe Boyd was his tour manager; when Dylan went electric at the Newport Festival, Joe Boyd was plugging in his guitar; when the summer of love got going, Joe Boyd was running the coolest club in London, the UFO. More than any previous 60s music autobiography, Joe Boyd’s White Bicycles offers the real story of what it was like to be there at the time.

Publishers: Serpent’s Tail (2007)

ISBN: 978-1852424893

 

‘Sounds of the South’ edited by Daniel W. Patterson

The book of a 1989 conference that gathered record collectors, folklorists, musicians, record producers, librarians, archivists, and traditional music lovers—celebrated the official opening of the Southern Folklife Collection with the John Edwards Memorial Collection at the library of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Based on that conference, Sounds of the South includes Bill Malone’s account of his own career as fan and scholar of country music, Paul Oliver on European blues scholarship (including the emergence of British Blues), and Ray Funk on researching Black Gospel Quartets.

Publishers: Duke University Press

ISBN: 0-8223-1343-X

 

‘Blues, How Do You Do? – Paul Oliver and the Transatlantic Story of the Blues’ by Christian O’Connell

Recent revisionist scholarship has argued that representations by white “outsider” observers of black American music have distorted historical truths about how the blues came to be. While these scholarly arguments have generated an interesting debate concerning how the music has been framed and disseminated, they have so far only told an American story, failing to acknowledge that in the post-war era the blues had spread far beyond the borders of the United States. As Christian O’Connell shows in Blues, How Do You Do? Paul Oliver’s largely neglected scholarship—and the unique transatlantic cultural context it provides—is vital to understanding the blues.

O’Connell’s study begins with Oliver’s scholarship in his early days in London as a writer for the British jazz press and goes on to examine Oliver’s encounters with visiting blues musicians, his State Department–supported field trip to the US in 1960, and the resulting photographs and oral history he produced, including his epic “blues narrative,” The Story of the Blues (1969). Blues, How Do You Do? thus aims to move away from debates that have been confined within the limits of national borders—or relied on clichés of British bands popularizing American music in America—to explore how Oliver’s work demonstrates that the blues became a reified ideal, constructed in opposition to the forces of modernity.

Publisher: University of Michigan Press     ISBN: 978-0-0472-05167-7

 

‘How Britain Got the Blues: The Transmission and Reception of American Blues Style in the United Kingdom’ by Roberta Freund Schwartz

This book explores how, and why, the blues became a central component of English popular music in the 1960s. It is commonly known that many ‘British invasion’ rock bands were heavily influenced by Chicago and Delta blues styles. But how, exactly, did Britain get the blues? Blues records by African American artists were released in the United States in substantial numbers between 1920 and the late 1930s, but were sold primarily to black consumers in large urban centres and the rural south. How, then, in an era before globalization, when multinational record releases were rare, did English teenagers in the early 1960s encounter the music of Robert Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller, Memphis Minnie, and Barbecue Bob? Roberta Schwartz analyses the transmission of blues records to England, from the first recordings to hit English shores to the end of the sixties.

Publisher: Routledge (2016)

ISBN: 0754655806

 

‘Cross The Water Blues’ edited by Neil A. Wynn

This unique collection of essays examines the flow of African American music and musicians across the Atlantic to Europe from the time of slavery to the twentieth century. In a sweeping examination of different musical forms–spirituals, blues, jazz, skiffle, and orchestral music–the contributors consider the reception and influence of black music on a number of different European audiences, particularly in Britain, but also France, Germany, and the Netherlands. The essayists approach the subject through diverse historical, musicological, and philosophical perspectives. A number of essays document little-known performances and recordings of African American musicians in Europe. Several pieces, including one by Paul Oliver, focus on the appeal of the blues to British listeners.

Publisher: University Press of Mississippi (2007)

ISBN: 1578069602

 

British Blues on Record, 1957-1970: A Selected Discography’ by Leslie Fancourt

Published by Retrack Books (1992)

ISBN: 9781874354017

 

‘The British Blues Network: Adoption, Emulation and Creativity’ by Andrew Kellett

Published by University of Michigan Press

ISBN: 978-0-472-03699-8

This book is about the blues and its impact in Great Britain, and it is also about the rock music made in the 1960s and 1970s by young, mostly male British musicians who were inspired by the blues. It is, at heart, a way of making sense of two distinct yet related historical statements about that music. The first is cultural historian David Christopher’s assertion that “by the mid-1970s all the major [rock] bands in the world were British.” The second is music critic and historian Robert Shelton’s argument that “musical developments” made by British groups such as Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin were “more imaginative” than those made by their American counterparts.