WRTG 27003 The Blues
Table of Contents
IC Library Print & Media Resources
Subject Searches: Blues in Black & White
Blues (Music) [mainly recordings]
Guitar music (Blues)
There are also Subject headings for blues recordings by decade:
Blues (Music)--To 1931
and blues recordings by place:
Blues (Music)--Mississippi--Delta (Region)
Blues (Music)--Southern States
For books about the blues, look especially for the subheading "History and Criticism":
Blues (Music)--History and criticism
Blues (Music)--Mississippi--History and criticism
Blues (Music)--Southern States--History and criticism
Other subheadings may indicate specific critical concerns:
Blues (Music)--African influences
Blues (Music)--Political aspects
Blues (Music)--Religious aspects
Blues (Music)--Social aspects--United States
Blues (Music)--Southern States--History
Individual blues performers may be studied collectively or individually:
Blues musicians--United States
Handy, W. C. (William Christopher), 1873-1958
Johnson, Robert, d. 1938-
Smith, Bessie, 1894-1937
Morton, Jelly Roll, d. 1941
Waters, Ethel, 1896-1977
Howlin' Wolf, 1910-1976
Considerable discussion of the blues may be found in works on Black music:
Blacks--Music--History and criticism
African Americans--Music--History and criticism
African Americans--Songs and music--History and criticism
Music and race
In its roots, variations, and influence the blues touches on a wide range of music:
Music--Africa [mainly recordings]
Music--Africa--History and criticism
Music--Africa, West--History and criticism
Popular music--United States--History and criticism
Folk music--United States--History and criticism
Ballads, English--United States--History and criticism
Hymns, English--Southern States--History and criticism
Hymns, English--United States--History and criticism
Music--United States--History and criticism
Slavery--Songs and music
Minstrel shows--United States--History
Spirituals (Songs) [recordings]
Spirituals (Songs)--History and criticism
Gospel music [recordings]
Gospel music--History and criticism
Work songs [recordings]
Work songs--History and criticism
Prisoners' songs [recordings]
Prisoners' songs--United States
Ragtime music [mainly recordings]
Ragtime music--History and criticism
Piano music (Boogie-woogie) [recordings]
Piano music (Boogie-woogie)--History and criticism
Swing (Music) [recordings]
Swing (Music)--History and criticism
Jazz [mainly recordings]
Jazz--History and criticism
Jazz--To 1921 [recordings]
Jazz--1921-1930--History and criticism
Jazz--1931-1940--History and criticism
Jazz--Political aspects--United States
Jazz--Social aspects--United States
Bop (Music)--History and criticism
Rhythm and blues music [recordings]
Rhythm and blues music--History and criticism
Soul music [recordings]
Soul music--History and criticism
Rock music--History and criticism
Rap (Music)--History and criticism
Rap (Music)--Social aspects
Subject Searches: History in Black & White
African Americans--Civil rights--Southern States--History--19th century
African Americans--History--To 1863
Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877)
African Americans--Segregation--History [the "Jim Crow" era]
African Americans in popular culture--History--19th century
African Americans--Social conditions--To 1964
African Americans--Social life and customs
African Americans--Southern States--Social conditions--19th century
Slaves--United States--Social conditions
Slaves--United States--Social conditions--19th century
Slaves--Southern States--Social conditions--19th century
Slaves--Southern States--Social life and customs
Slavery--United States--History--19th century
Slavery--Southern States--History--19th century
Plantation life--Southern States
Plantation life--Southern States--History
Plantation life--Southern States--History--19th century
Delta (Miss. : Region)--Social conditions
Not in the IC Library??
WorldCat is a "union catalog" that allows you to search the holdings of over 10,000 libraries from accross the country and around the world. Check WorldCat to discover what the entire universe of possible resources looks like for your topic.
- Because of the enormous size--over two billion items--and diversity of media acessible through WorldCat, I strongly recommend using the "Advanced Search," where you have several input fields and can set multiple search limits.
- In addition to Author, Title, and Keyword, note that the drop down menus of search fields offer a Subject search, which can be very useful if you have a topic in mind rather than a particular item.
- Format is the most useful limit to set. In such a large database it helps enormously to indicate whether you are searching for a book, a DVD, a CD, etc.
- If your topic is time-sensitive, try focusing on a recent time span under Year.
IC Library Databases (Articles)
Begin by running a Subject search on Blues Music for a sense of the range of resources here. User Advisory: ProQuest is fussy about entering Subject searches in the designated search slot. If your subject is a person, enter the name--last name first--in the "Person" slot (two slots below Subject): for example, Morton, Jelly Roll. If you want to search a place, put the name in the Location slot: for example Memphis Tennessee.
Above each set of articles you retrieve ProQuest will display useful "Suggested Topics"--related Subject searches to help either broaden or narrow your focus.
Academic Search Premier Comprehensive subject coverage with considerable full text. Note that there is a “Subject Terms” link just above the search boxes, allowing you to search the index of Subject Headings--often a good first stop for more efficient Subject searching whereby you are guaranteed that your topic is indeed a main subject of the articles retrieved.
If you want to target a particular musician by name: don't use the "Subject" search; use the "People" search, last name first.
Music Index (online) : Like Academic Search Premier above, this is an EBSCO database and can be searched in much the same way--except that instead of a "Subject Terms" option above the search slots there is "Indexes," where you can select the index of "Subject Terms." There are pages of blues-related terms to browse here.
General OneFile : is the most user-friendly of our comprehensive databases, covering almost any topic from a wide range of disciplinary angles and offering lots of full text. Use the "Browse Subjects" search to find the best subject heading for your topic (and when you find a good one be sure to look at the "Related Subjects" to see if there's something even better). For this topic you might try Blues (Music), Blues Musicians, Rhythm and Blues Music, and Blues Guitar Music.
When you settle on a subject heading, open the "Subdivisions" link below it. Most General OneFile subject searches produce very large retrievals and the "subdivisions" help you narrow your search to a particular aspect: Appreciation, Criticism and Interpretation, History, Personalities, and Social aspects..
If the best available Subject or Subdivision is still too broad, open it and add your own Keywords in the "Search within these results" slot at the upper left.
User Advisory: When first viewing your retrievals in General OneFile, note that you are seeing onlythe "Magazines" (popular articles) and must click on the tabs for "Academic Journals" (scholarly articles) or "News" (newspaper articles) to see those results.
JSTOR : covers a wide range of scholarly journals in most disciplines, always beginning with the first issue of each one. This provides 100% full text access to articles from not only the first half of the 20th century but even the second half of the 19th. Be aware, however, that at the other end of the date range articles don't appear in JSTOR until at least 2-3 years after publication.
JSTOR offers only a Keyword search of its complete full text, so retrievals are large, but the relevancy ranking does a good job of putting the strongest matches on the first few pages. "Blues" is somewhat problematic as a Keyword, so be sure to combine it with at least one other term to indicate that you are interested in the musical genre: for instance, blues and memphis, blues and delta, blues and guitar, blues and song*, or blues and "Robert Johnson." (The asterisk * is the truncation symbol here, so song* retrieves both song and songs. And remember to put phrases or names in quotation marks as a signal you want all the words in exactly that order.)
User Advisory: The academic journals covered here feature numerous book reviews, so it's a good idea to tick the "Article" limit below the search slots so you won't be overwhelmed by book reviews on your topic.
Also note the "Date Range" limit, which in a database with an archive this deep can be very useful. You can use it to target articles written anytime during the last 150 years.
Project Muse , although a smaller database, it complements JSTOR. LIke JSTOR it provides 100% full text of mostly scholarly journals, but its coverage is entirely current--mainly spanning the last 10-15 years. Muse uses a "black box" search approach--you enter your search terms in one slot with no designated field options--but in addition to slapping in keywords, you can use the same Library of Congress Subject Headings that work in the Library catalog (see above under "Subject Searches"). This broad approach to searching tends to generate large retrievals, so it's best to be as specific as possible, but for an overview you might begin with "Blues (Music)." And note--once you have a retrieval set, you can add more search terms by clicking "Modify Search" at the top.
RILM Abstracts of Music Literature : This database can be a bit persnickety--for instance, don't try to enter Blues as a Subject search. Instead try putting "blues" in the "Topics" slot towards the bottom of the screen and then enter your specific topic in a Keyword ("Anywhere") slot at the top.
America: History and Life : In addition to searching politicians and presidents by name as Subject searches, this database allows you to set a "Historical Period" limit (below the search slots on the left). If you set this for 1890-1920, any Subjects or Keywords you enter above will retrieve articles on that topic as it played out during that 30-year period. But: be aware that setting a Period limit of 1890-1920 will also retrieve any Period that contains those 30 years: 1850-1950.
A Subject search on "Blues" will retrieve articles on both Blues (Music) and Blues Musicians.
Be sure to set the "Document Type" limit to "Article" to weed out all the many book reviews that will otherwise clot your search for articles.
There's a good deal of full text here, but where there isn't be sure to use the "Find Full Text" link below citations to see if another IC database can supply it.
New York Times (1851-2009) gives access to the full text of the New York Times 1851-2006. Reset the default search of "citation and document text" to "citation and abstract" (since this is a Keyword search of 100% full text, you are likely to generate too many passing mentions of your search terms if you search all the text; first try the more focused "citation and abstract" search and only broaden it to "document text" if you retrieve too few hits).
Use the "date range" limits to target the primary sources available here--contemporary reports. Without a date range limit you may retrieve hundreds of articles written decades after the events they discuss.
User Advisory: With only the Keyword option, searching "blues" or "the blues" here will overwhelm you with irrelevant articles--even in combination with words like "music" or "singer." The name of a particular blues performer or event will work best.
LexisNexis Academic News: Offering a keyword search of 100% full text from a vast number of national and international newspapers, this is an easy database to use poorly and a bit tricky to use well. In order not to be overwhelmed with articles in which your search terms are mentioned anywhere—first or last paragraph—or any number of times—once or ten times—use commands to target articles in which your topic words are mentioned early or mentioned often.
Use the hlead command (headline and lead paragraphs) to target articles in which your topic words occur in the prime news-story position of headline or first paragraphs. For example: hlead(fracking and pollution) will retrieve just the articles in which the words “fracking” and “pollution” are used in the headline or first paragraphs. Note: the term or terms to which you want this command to apply must be put in parentheses after hlead, with no space between.
Use the altleast command to target articles in which your topic words occur a set number of times. For example: atleast5(“gay marriage”) will retrieve only the articles where this phrase is used at least 5 times—indicating that it must be a main topic. You can plug in any number after atleast—atleast3 or atleast7. Note: the term or terms to which you want this command to apply must be put in parentheses with no space between the number you choose and the first parenthesis.
Use the date range offered under Advanced Options. Because this is a large database of 100% full text, one of the most effective ways to retrieve fewer than 1000 hits is to set up a time frame. Note: if you use the calendar icons to set beginning and end dates, you need to choose a year, a month, and a day for each. Without the day, the date won’t register.
For Expert Assistance
Selected ebrary Books (full-text)
- Barrelhouse Words : A Blues Dialect Dictionary
- Africa and the Blues
- In Search of the Blues
- Barrelhouse Blues
- Blues Traveling : The Holy Sites of Delta Blues
- Ragged but Right : Black Traveling Shows, "Coon Songs," and the Dark Pathway to Blues and Jazz
- Out of Sight : The Rise of African American Popular Music, 1889-1895
- New Blue Music : Changes in Rhythm and Blues, 1950-1999
- Blues Music in the Sixties
- Just My Soul Responding
- Jelly Roll
- Moanin' at Midnight : The Life and Times of Howlin' Wolf
- How Britain Got the Blues : The Transmission and Reception of American Blues
- Race Music : Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop
- Cross the Water Blues : African American Music in Europe
- Grove Music Online (limit of 8 simultaneous users) See esp Blues
- Oxford Music Online
- Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History
- Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990
Print: (2nd & 3rd floors):
- African American encyclopedia
- Encyclopedia of African-American culture and history
- Garland encyclopedia of world music: v.3: The United States and Canada
- New Grove dictionary of music and musicians
- Encyclopedia of the blues
- Blues who's who
- Blues & gospel records, 1890-1943
- Encyclopedia of the blues
- Folk and blues : the encyclopedia
- Encyclopedia of American gospel music
- New Grove dictionary of Jazz
- Encyclopedia of popular music
- Encyclopedia of pop, rock & soul
- Ragtime : an encyclopedia, discography, and sheetography
- Baker's biographical dictionary of musicians
- International dictionary of Black composers
- Virgin encyclopedia of jazz
- Contemporary musicians
- Chronology of American popular music, 1900-2000
- Penguin guide to blues recordings
- American musical traditions
Web Search Engines
Under "Need More Tools?" you will find the "Search within a site or domain" slot. You may enter only one domain at a time, but it's worth targeting each of the three domains likely to supply the best information: colleges and universities (enter the "edu" tag), nonprofit organizations (enter the "org" tag), and the United States government (enter the "gov" tag).
Selected Web Sites
- Blues Foundation: Memphis-based organization with pockets of information scattered around their site. See especially the "What is the Blues" link at the top right (and note that links to content then appear in the left margin), as well as the "Member & Affiliate" links (especially Education and Internet), "Blues News" and "Blues Hall of Fame" with its Inductees links.
- Blue Highway: Curtis Hustan's fan site, some parts are not maintained, but some are and there is a wealth of information about blues Web resources under Blues Links.
- Uncensored History of the Blues: Mike Rugel's podcasts featuring blues recordings and discussion.
- The Blues: Support site for the PBS series offers a fair amount of content.
- Earlyblues.com: British site with quite a bit of content and coverage of the history. Use the handy index across the top, and don't overlook Earlyblues Website Treasure Trove at the bottom.
- American Popular Music Before 1900: Good gateway to resources for the roots of the blues from the Lone Star College System.
- John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip: This Library of Congress site offers 700 sound recordings of various American music styles including folk, blues, spirituals, and work songs. This provides an unvarnished sample of blues and roots music.
- Also take a look--and listen--to the Library of Congress collection Now What a Time: Blues, Gospel, and the Fort Valley Music Festivals, 1938-43. You'll find 100 recordings and related photos and text.
- National Jukebox: Historical recordings from the Library of Congress. Under "Genres" open "Popular Music" and first on the list is "Blues."
- Red Hot Musicians: Essays and audio covering jazz and blues music. Note that the alphabetical musicians list on the home page scrolls and that there is a Table of Contents for the site just below the musicians list--including a keyword search option.
- Blues World: A fan site with a fair amount of content that requires you to take a hit-and-miss approach with all those confusing boxes on the home page. Better to use the categorized Blues Links.
- AllMusic: Blues: This works as a thesaurus of the blues: a categorical approach that allows you to burrow down by style, artist, album, and song.
- Blues History: Not much still works here except the Essays which may be worth a visit.
- Traveling the Blues Highway: National Geographic feature from 1999.
- Online 78 Discographical Project: 78 RPM records were once the standard and this site offers extensive, but very basic, information on who recorded what song when, arranged by record company. Covers approximately 1899-1959.
MLA is the citation style used by most disciplines in the Humanities. MLA revised its style in 2008 in the MLA Style Manual, and these changes have been incorporated in the 7th edition of the MLA Handbook (May 2009). The guides below use the 2008/9 standards.