Blues Bytes


September 2015

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Son House
Finding Son House: One Searcher’s Story (book)
CreateSpace Indpendent Publishing Platform

Son House

Son House is enjoying a nice resurgence in popularity and appreciation these days and deservedly so. In late August, the town of Rochester, New York, where House lived for nearly a quarter century held a four-day blues event honoring the Delta Blues legend during which a Mississippi Blues Trail marker was unveiled there in his honor. For the uninitiated, House is one of the most influential of the early blues artists, inspiring the music of icons like Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters and therefore many of their disciples, as well as setting the groundwork for what is now known as the Chicago Blues.

His own story --- the historical ’30s recordings for Paramount, his seminal Library of Congress recordings, his disappearance from the scene and “rediscovery” in the ’60s, and his lifelong inner struggle between the church and the world --- has been well covered over the past few years. However, one phase of his life --- the period between his second fade-out from the blues scene in the mid ’70s until his death in 1988 --- has really not been as extensively covered.

Richard Shade Gardner is a blues enthusiast who hosted his own blues radio show in Rochester and became interested in House in the early ’80s. He became determined to track down and meet the great blues man. Gardner recounts this quest in the book Finding Son House: One Searcher’s Story, a brief, but engaging story that neatly fills in the gap in information on House’s last few years.

Gardner’s efforts will surely strike home with most blues fans that have wanted to and ended up having the opportunity to meet one of their musical idols. I won’t reveal any details about his journey and the aftermath, only to say that it makes for compelling reading and blues fans will devour this story easily in one sitting, as I did. It’s both interesting and entertaining.

Gardner also includes several appendices which include a discography of House’s recordings and some information on early recordings by the Beatles and Rolling Stones listing their covers of songs by earlier R&B and blues artists.

The influence of Son House on the blues and rock & roll can never be overstated. In his foreword, Gardner says that if the evolution of rock music was to be placed on an organizational chart Son House would be the CEO, as he bridged the gap between the musicians in the days before recordings and radio who came before and influenced him and the artists such as Johnson and Waters, who directly followed him. Gardner’s book is a nice tribute to this musical pioneer.

--- Graham Clarke
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