The Great Country Blues Singers

Posted: July 22, 2012 in Blues Revival 60s, History, James McKune, Pre war blues

Author: James McKune
Source: VJM/Palaver (1960-65)


James McKune, a social isolate, closeted homosexual and alcoholic, born around 1910, after having worked as a re-write man on the New York Times, drifted into an itinerant life, before finally being murdered. If we remember him now, it is because McKune was a passionate pioneer blues collector, who is very much at the basis of the blues revival in the 60s.

He was an obsessive collector of rare recordings, scavenging in junk-shops, but whose collection, stored in his room at the YMCA, contained only some 300 discs, none of them having cost him more than $3 – it was a point of principle.

McKune is said to have unearthed in 1944 a recording made in 1929 by an obscure Mississippi songster by the name of Charlie Patton.

When in 1959, Samuel Charters published his famous “The Country Blues”, James McKune started to write a number of columns in the British-based collector’s magazine VJM Palaver. The series was called “The Great Country Blues Singers” appearing in the early 1960’s, and is largely a reaction to Samuel Charters’ publication that paid more attention to popularity and sales than to what McKune considered to be the “real”, unadulterated folk blues.

Integrated here is a collection of essays: 1, 3-9. The text of number one is reproduced from Marybeth Hamilton’s “In Search of the Blues” (2007, 182-183). (see also here)

Thanks to Raymond Astbury for the scanning.


– 1

– 3(1)

– 3(2)

– 4

– 5

– 6

– 7

– 8

– 9


  1. burgundio says:

    Would it be possible to have a precise indications of the issues these columns are from? Thank you very much for making them available, but dating them (year/number or month) would make them more usable and also it would be easier to locate the missing two!

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