Goin' Back to Memphis: A Century of Blues, Rock 'n' Roll, and Glorious Soul

James L. Dickerson, Author Schirmer Trade Books $29 (279p) ISBN 978-0-02-864506-3
Musical Memphis defined the blues, rechanneled it into rhythm and blues, invented rock and roll, then bastardized it into pop. This infectious blend of history, anecdote, reportage and gossip begins with wild, woolly, turn-of-the-century Beale Street, which attracted blues bandleader W.C. Handy. The 1920s Memphis music scene was dominated by bluesman Walter ""Furry"" Lewis, fiery ex-prostitute Memphis Minnie (Lizzie Douglas) and ""Fiddling Abe"" Fortas (who later became a Supreme Court Justice). The 1930s and '40s brought forth swing arranger Jimmie Lunceford and harmonica wizard Sonny Boy Williamson, but the narrative really gets going in 1950 when Elvis Presley, a 15-year-old from Mississippi, began hanging out on Beale Street, eventually recording hits with Sam Phillips's Sun Record. Otis Redding helped define soul in Memphis in the '60s. Dickerson, a freelance music journalist who has long covered the Memphis scene, seemingly drags in every artist who has recorded in Memphis, from Petula Clark to Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and ZZ Top. His engaging chronicle sizzles with the energies that transformed American music and popular culture. Photos. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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