Staging the Blues: From Tent Shows to Tourism

Duke University Press
Free sample

Singing was just one element of blues performance in the early twentieth century. Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and other classic blues singers also tapped, joked, and flaunted extravagant costumes on tent show and black vaudeville stages. The press even described these women as "actresses" long before they achieved worldwide fame for their musical recordings. In Staging the Blues, Paige A. McGinley shows that even though folklorists, record producers, and festival promoters set the theatricality of early blues aside in favor of notions of authenticity, it remained creatively vibrant throughout the twentieth century. Highlighting performances by Rainey, Smith, Lead Belly, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGhee in small Mississippi towns, Harlem theaters, and the industrial British North, this pioneering study foregrounds virtuoso blues artists who used the conventions of the theater, including dance, comedy, and costume, to stage black mobility, to challenge narratives of racial authenticity, and to fight for racial and economic justice.
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About the author

Paige A. McGinley is Assistant Professor of Performing Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Aug 20, 2014
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Pages
296
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ISBN
9780822376316
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Language
English
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Genres
Music / Genres & Styles / Blues
Social Science / Ethnic Studies / African American Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Among the signal achievements of African American culture is the style of music known as the blues, an art form evolved from southern black songs of the late nineteenth century. From the field hollers and steel-bodied guitar of its early days to the electric amplification of today's performers, the visceral power of the blues has long been celebrated for its creativity, spontaneity, and ingenuity. It has served as a wellspring for other forms of music, including gospel, jazz, rhythm and blues, soul, rock, and rap, and has exerted an influence on literature and the visual arts as well. This book brings together some of the most significant writings about the blues published between 1911 and 1998. Included are selections by folklorists, anthropologists, sociologists, literary artists, musicians, critics, and aficionados. Thut the blues published between 1911 and 1998. Included are selections by folklorists, anthropologists, sociologists, literary artists, musicians, critics, and aficionados. The extraordinary appeal of the blues is reflected in the range of contributors to this volume, among them Howard W. Odum, Alan Lomax, Richard Alan Waterman, Langston Hughes, Paul Oliver, Sam Charters, Janheinz Jahn, James Baldwin, Leroi Jones, Charles Keil, Jeff Todd Titon, Houston Baker, Hazel Carby, and Angela Davis. From these various perspectives emerges a new understanding of the blues: its origins in African aesthetics; the impact of slavery and Reconstruction; its early folk manifestations; and the importance of religion, style, gender, audience, protest, and the record business in its development as an art form. Further context is provided by a comprehensive introduction, section overviews, and an extensive bibliography, discography, and videography of blues materials.
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