Author: Michael Bloomfield
Scan of 1980 publication by RE/SEARCH PUBLICATIONS


Michael Bloomfield’s retelling of his travels with bluesman Big Joe Williams, first  published in 1980.

“The drive to St. Louis was real nice. Wonderful, in fact. Joe  talked… about things that happened thirty years ago as though they’d  happened that morning. He reminisced about Robert Johnson and Willie McTell and Blind Boy Fuller; he told how Sunnyland Slim had helped  Muddy Waters get a record contract; he explained how Big Bill had  gotten rich. Being with Joe was being with a history of the Blues – you could see him as a man, and you could see him as a legend. He  couldn’t read or write a word of English, but he had America  memorized. From forty years of hiking roads and riding rails he was  wise to every highway and byway in the country, and wise to every city  and county and township that they led to. Joe was part of a rare and  vanished breed – he was a wanderer and a hobo and a blues singer, and  he was an awesome man.

 …here was a man of stature. There was a great pride in this man, a  great strength in this man. And there was poetry. He was a poet of the highways, and in the words of his songs he could sing to you his life.  And to hear him talk about Robert Johnson or Son House or Charlie  Patton, to hear life distilled from fifty years of thumbing rides and  riding rails and playing joints – to hear of levees and work gangs and tent shows; of madams and whores, pimps and rounders, gamblers, bootleggers and roustabouts; of circuit-preachers and medicine-show  men – well it was something. Because to know this man was to know the  story of black America, and maybe to know the story of black America is to know America itself.”



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