Out In The Be-Bop 1960s Folk Blues Revival Night- The 1963 American Folk Blues Festival- A CD Review
Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of folk blues legend Lonnie Johnson performing It’s Too Late To Cry
American Folk Blues Festival, various artists, Optimism Records, 1981
Let’s go by the numbers, the musical year numbers for my generation, the generation of ’68. We all came of musical age, more or less with Elvis, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee in the mid-1950s when the music was hot, we were naïve (or worst), and just let it go from there. After a musical counter-revolution in the late 1950s where we put up with some awful Bobby Vee/Fabian/Johnny Somebody stuff we stepped right into the hard rock and roll of the Rolling Stones and later groups that based their early work on the blues, the American etched blues. Go figure.
Yes, go figure. Go figure that much of early rock and roll was derived from the blues, city blues mainly, Chicago mainly, but those self-same city blues were derived from you guessed it, the old country blues from down in the Delta, the North Carolina Piedmont and the hills and hollows of Appalachia where all the hip Chicago cats (Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf, Junior Well, etc.,) came from. All of this is just around about way to pay tribute to the roots of our generational genre.
But more than that it was a question of revivals, here the American Folk Blues Festival of 1963, which was indirectly brought about by our generation of ’68’s search for roots to explain our angst and alienation, including the search for authentic roots music. See once rock and roll hit our brains like a, well like an atomic bomb we lose sight of where the music came from. More importantly what happened to those who created the music that once was the staple of hip music. Yes, the boys (mainly) were still around in places like Maxwell Street in Chicago or down picking cotton in the Delta or holed up in some skid row hotel just waiting to be “discovered”.
That may not be the exact genesis of the folk blues revival when that movement hit high stride in the Newport folk festivals of the early 1960s reintroducing a young audience to the likes of Sleepy John Estes, Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James and Son House but it will do here. And of course the artists on this CD-the likes of Muddy Waters, Lonnie Johnson, Victoria Spivey (a personal favorite on this CD) and legendary producer and writer Willie Dixon. This is history, maybe not world-shaking history but a very important slice of the people’s history. Listen up.