Book Review: Rock & Roll Books

Ted Gioia

Rock & Roll Books

Delta Blues: The Life and Times of the Mississippi Masters Who Revolutionized American Music

by Ted Gioia
Norton, 448 pp., $27.95

A provocative parallel finds Delta Blues published at roughly the same time as Alan Govenar's Texas Blues, given that the two books stand in opposition on where the blues began. The question isn't difficult for Plano resident Ted Gioia, who finds the genre's roots firmly bound to the plantations and prisons of Mississippi. It's a tough, broad topic and difficult to rein in; the absence of blues giants such as Bo Diddley makes it clear that somewhere in the book's nearly 500 pages, its author made tough decisions about who best illustrated his thesis. A well-known jazz critic and musician, Gioia makes his case with precision, profiling some of the region's best-known brands (Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King), as well as lesser-knowns such as Son House and Tommy Johnson. Naturally, the Robert Johnson legend is examined, Gioia weaving together the various accounts with his own thoughtful commentary. Tantalizingly, the author spins the devil-at-the-crossroads story with the rarely celebrated Tommy Johnson dealing down his soul, not Robert. Whether the blues began in Mississippi or not, the sounds of the Delta Gioia writes of lie deep within its foundation.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Delta blues
Austin Finally Gets the Delta Blues
Austin Finally Gets the Delta Blues
Singing the praises of the latest ice cream flavor to swirl into town

Mick Vann, April 27, 2007

New and Noteworthy
New and Noteworthy
Only the best ice cream of all time

Mick Vann, June 30, 2006

More Music Reviews
<i>Me & Mr. Cigar</i>
Me & Mr. Cigar
Butthole Surfers singer Gibby Haynes debuts a deeply weird and wonderful young adult novel.

Alyssa Quiles, Feb. 21, 2020

Revenge of the She-Punks
Revenge of the She-Punks

Rachel Rascoe, Dec. 6, 2019

More by Margaret Moser
Did I Know Bruce Springsteen Was Going to Play 2012?
Did I Know Bruce Springsteen Was Going to Play 2012?

March 3, 2017

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler
Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler
A look back at illustrated album covers old and new

July 29, 2016


Delta blues

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle