A ripping tale, helpful reference book and, at 5c a page, a blueschip investment.
All you ever wanted to know about American music’s remarkable history is now available in just the ONE big book – the 390 pages and 46 chapters that make up America’s Gift. At five cents for each 11′ x 8.5′ page, that’s a reasonable bang for your 20 bucks.
So, why America’s Gift? Because blues is America’s gift to the world and America’s has the full story of how blues evolved.
As Rolling Stone Keith Richards says, “Twentieth-century music is based on the blues. You wouldn’t have jazz or any other modern music without the blues. And therefore every pop song, no matter how trite or crass, has got a bit of the blues in it – even without them knowing, even though they’ve washed most of it out.”
Much of what’s written about blues’ history, especially blues’ formative years, America’s Gift shows to be based on inaccuracies, misinformation that has been repeated down the years. For example, the United States’ Senate cited 2003 as the centennial year of blues’ formation, even though America’s Gift proves blues existed (though under other names) much earlier than 1903. In the Senate’s defence, however, blues is an intangible subject, and the well-meaning politicians had to pinpoint their start-date somewhere.
Most blues histories will tell you the genre started around 1895. But as America’s Gift explains, the seeds of the blues go back centuries. Another bit of misinformation the book puts right is the date of the first black blues recording, usually given as 1920 when Mamie Smith cut Crazy Blues. In America’s Gift, you’ll read how the historic first black blues record was cut in London in 1916.
Find out hundreds of other remarkable blues facts, and American music firsts, finally together in the one book. Only in America’s Gift.
The image used on the cover of America’s Gift. He’s Mississippi John Hurt playing around 1965. Pic courtesy: Bernard Gotfryd – Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
How America’s Gift evolved from How Blues Evolved
America’s Gift originally appeared in eBook form – in two volumes called “How Blues Evolved”. Paul Merry’s original e-manuscript needed to digitally accommodate over 100 rare photographs and illustrations. It was so large, it had to be split into two volumes. Having so many pictures, virtually one to a page, makes each volume of “How Blues Evolved” rare amongst electronic books, let alone eBooks on blues history.
The blue eBook, below, looks at blues’ evolution through history, concluding around the turn of the twentieth century.
The red book takes up the story from the 1890s to the 1950s. This is when Muddy Waters and his contemporaries started recording in Chicago, an era that has been more than adequately written about. We’ll leave that blues story to other writers.
In 2015, the two eBook volumes were combined and significantly added to create a print edition of “How Blues Evolved” renamed, “America’s Gift”. At 367 pages long, 11 by 8.5 inches and an inch thick, now you have something more substantial than an eBook to hold in your hands.
Why is this the ‘untold’ story of the blues?
Most blues histories, outstanding as they are, take us back to the late 1890s but rarely further. As South Carolina’s Cradle of Jazz Project wrote: “From the end of the dances at Congo Square (c. 1820) to the beginning of jazz, there is a black hole … when the old West African music slowly turned into the new music of America.”
America’s Gift was written expressly to shine light into that ‘black hole’, to discover exactly what happened to America’s slave music in the 19th century, and how such music evolved during the centuries before.
North African Berbers on an African slave hunting exhibition, from an 1895 illustration. These Taureg warriors, or ‘Blue Men of the Desert’, supplied Africa’s slave markets with human merchandise for centuries. It’s all the books.
Why untold? First we examine the origins of Africa’s ancient slave trade, the West’s involvement with slavery from the 1400s, and how America’s first Africans were pirated from Portuguese slavers. We tell how the musical rhythms of old Africa absorbed the melodies of white America, in the 17th and 18th centuries. We explain how various musical strands intertwined over those centuries, to finally create a music only named blues in 1912.
A 1924 OKeh ad. for Ed Andrews. Ed was probably the first African American to be recorded singing the blues while accompanying himself on blues guitar. The full story’s in America’s Gift.
Why untold? Such historical information is usually only available in isolation. America’s Gift pieces the story together like a jigsaw puzzle, yet avoids the blues minutia and academic intensity often found in histories of 20th century blues. Not avoided are the 19th century’s distasteful minstrel and coon song periods. Often cut from blues histories these days, these genres are so essential to blues’ evolution. In America’s Gift, facts are not overruled by political correctness.
Why untold? Discover how and where the term ‘blues’ evolved and how it reached America. Find out how only white singers recorded blues in America, from 1914 to 1920, and why black singers didn’t want to sing blues. America’s Gift tells you who-did-what-first in the years leading up to and into the blues era, and the genres they did it in. It is the first book, to our knowledge, to link American sea shanties to the evolution of the blues.
Why untold? America’s Gift discovers blues recorded in London by African Americans three years BEFORE the generally-accepted date of 1920. It tracks down the earliest known African Americans playing the folk music later called blues, and what they sang. It discloses who published and recorded what blues song first, who recorded the first blues guitar, first guitar solo, first slide guitar, first harmonica, first country blues and first electric guitar blues, even earlier sometimes than previously thought.
Why untold? Read about the great blues dispute of 1938 where two blues giants argued over the genre’s past. America’s Gift gives you the full blues story up to the 1950s. On the way it selects 20 rocking blues tracks that pre-empted rock ‘n’ roll. These date from 1936 to 1949, years before the oft-cited Rocket 88 in 1952.
America’s Gift is illustrated, nearly a foot tall and an inch thick, with 367 pages of easy-to-read type and a 21-page index. It has been described as a “lightening read”, just in case you’re thinking it might be a bit stodgy.
But don’t just take our word for it. Take a free preview of all three books on Amazon now.