Reviews

Choice
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

This biography of influential blues singer, guitarist, and composer Big Bill Broonzy (?1893-1958) includes a foreword by journalist Peter Guralnick and an "appreciation" by The Who's Pete Townsend. Riesman researched census records, read Broonzy's correspondence and other writings, and interviewed his friends and family, musicians, and promoters in writing Broonzy's life. From his rural Arkansas childhood to his overseas service in WW I to Chicago, the narrative documents Broonzy's growth as an artist and his central role in the Chicago blues world of the 1930s-40s. In 1951, Broonzy took the first of his many trips to perform in Europe, where he influenced future rock musicians (Clapton, Townsend, et al.) just as he had blues musicians back home and paved the way for other blues musicians to tour Europe. As postwar blues became louder and brasher, Broonzy remade himself into a folk musician performing primarily for white audiences. Riesman is thorough and writes well, and he does an excellent job of describing Broonzy's tendency to re-create his past (e.g., his claim of having been born in Mississippi). The book includes a selected discography, filmography, and gallery of previously unknown photographs. A bibliography is available on the publisher's website. For all music, Americana, and folklore collections. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. F. J. Hay Appalachian State University


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* Big Bill Broonzy was one of the leading figures in Chicago blues history as well as a mentor to fellow bluesmen and inspiration to many British musicians, including Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend. Born in Arkansas in 1903, Broonzy, like many African Americans of his generation, headed north in search of a better life, bringing together the rural blues of his native South with the urban blues of his adopted Chicago. In this compelling biography, Riesman traces Broonzy's peripatetic career as the restless bluesman traveled across the country and in Europe, singing his songs and playing his guitar to black and white audiences alike. One of the most versatile musicians in popular music at the time, he was constantly reinventing himself. Especially fascinating are the chapters that discuss Broonzy's relationships with Pete Seeger, Studs Terkel, and Win Stracke (one of the founders of the Old Town School of Folk Music); his appearances at the People's Songs and Come for to Sing concerts; and the backstory of how a young jazz enthusiast from Belgium named Yannick Bruynoghe became Broonzy's first biographer. An important contribution to the literature of the blues as well as Chicago musical history.--Sawyers, Jun. Copyright 2010 Booklist