By John W. Work, Lewis Wade Jones and Samuel C. Adams Jr.
Edited by Robert Gordon and Bruce Nemerov
Far more fascinating than the authors’ work itself is Muddy Waters historian Robert Gordon’s 26-page introduction, which tells the story of how this book came to be—and why it took so long to finally reach publication.
Work, Jones and Adams were three African-American Fisk University scholars who accompanied Alan Lomax on his famous Mississippi field-recording trips for the Library of Congress. Work had conceived a project to perform a musical/sociological survey and record residents of Natchez, Miss. He asked for Lomax’s help, and the findings were to be published jointly by Fisk and the Library. Somehow, the Fisk portion was “misplaced” and, fifty years later, Lomax published The Land Where the Blues Began, taking credit for coming up with the study idea—not to mention presenting some of it inaccurately.
Those who know the history of Delta blues may not find much further enlightenment in these sometimes-dry academic reports, but there’s no question they deserve to be in print now.
Lomax, long revered as the man who brought us Muddy Waters, Son House and others, turns out here to be a rather unforgivably self-serving cad who tried to steal these men’s place in history. With Gordon and Nemerov’s assistance, they’ve rightfully gotten it back.