Saving the blues; instruments & recordings

Collection of field recordings by blues historian, George Mitchell.

In February of 2009 I attended a blues symposium at Ole Miss in Oxford, MS. The subject was the history of blues field recording and the presenters were mostly people who had been directly involved in preserving the sounds of blues history. One presenter was George Mitchell who recorded such legends as R.L. Burnside, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Huston Stackhouse, and Furry Lewis. The university maintains a library of blues artifacts and one of the items on display was this very old cigar box guitar, currently strung as a diddley bow. I don’t know the history of it but it’s obvious it has seen many incarnations. The diddley bow is the instrument from which Bo Diddley borrowed his stage name. Other field recorders in attendance were Art Rosenbaum, Roger Stolle of Cat Head Records, Sy Oliver, and David Evans. Without the efforts of these men and others like John and Alan Lomax much of our musical legacy would have been lost in the pages of time.

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