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2020 Spring Semester


A Tour of the Blues

Instructor: Frank Johnson

Tuesdays • 3/18-5/6 • 10:15 AM-12:15 PM

Class size 8-24 students
14 seats remaining
Location: Jewett 293

The course will consider influential musicians from the Mississippi Delta, Piedmont, Texas, Louisiana, Memphis, the West Coast and Chicago. Musical selections will span the period from the 1920′ to the later 1990’s. Seminal figures will be examined such as: Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith, Son House, Lightnin’ Hopkins, B.B. King, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, Little Walter, Big Joe Williams and many others.

Musical selections will also probe lesser-known artists like Hop Wilson, Leroy Carr, Slim Harpo, Willie Wilkins and Zuzu Bollin.

We will discuss some of the major social and economic issues that contributed to the music’s development including the great migration of African Americans from the Deep South to the urban centers of the Midwest and West Coast. Other topics will include the independent record labels that produced the music and the music’s influence on rock ‘n roll.Classroom


Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues: Mamie Smith, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Victoria Spivey, Alberta Hunter, Lucille Bogan, Lil Johnson, Merline Johnson, Memphis Minnie, Lil Green, Ida Cox, Sippie Wallace, Big Mama Thornton, Koko Taylor, Esther Phillips.

Delta Blues: Tommy Johnson, Willie Brown, Bo Carter, Charley Patton, Kokomo Arnold, Johnny Temple, Casey Bill Weldon, Robert Johnson, Bukka White, Son House, Robert Petway, Muddy Waters, Big Joe Williams, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Skip James, Johnny Shines, David Honeyboy Edwards.

Piedmont and Louisiana: Blind Blake, Barbecue Bob, Curley Weaver, Bumble Bee Slim, Buddy Moss, Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Willie McTell, Brownie McGhee, Buddy Woods, Guitar Slim, Clarence Garlow, Lonesome Sundown, Slim Harpo, Lightnin’ Slim, Lazy Lester, Robert Pete Williams, Snooks Eaglin, Tabby Thomas.

Memphis: Robert Wilkins, Furry Lewis, Willie Nix, Jimmy DeBerry, Sammy Lewis and Willie Johnson, Joe Hill Louis, Earl Forest, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Milton, Junior Parker, Albert King, Bobby Bland, B.B. King

Texas: Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Smokey Hogg, Frankie Lee Sims, T-Bone Walker, Goree Carter, Gatemouth Brown, Lonnie Lyons, Clarence Samuels, Widemouth Brown, Lester Williams, Zuzu Bollin, Cal Green, Larry Davis, Louis Howard, Travis Phillips, Texas Pete Mayes, Hop Wilson, Freddy King, Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, Joe Hughes, Z.Z. Hill.

Goin’ to Chicago 1: Tampa Red, Big Bill Broonzy, Big Maceo Merriweather, John Lee Sonny Boy Williamson I, Big Boy Crudup, Floyd Jones, Howlin’ Wolf, Big Boy Spires, Robert Nighthawk, Honeyboy Edwards, Johnny Jones, Junior Wells, Memphis Slim, Jimmy Rogers, Little Walter, J.B. Lenoir, Jimmy Reed, Otis Rush, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson II.

Goin’ to Chicago 2: Elmore James, Earl Hooker, Buddy Guy, Otis Spann, James Cotton, Homesick James, Howlin’ Wolf, Eddie Taylor, Muddy Waters, J.B. Hutto, Johnny Shines, Luther Allison, Carey Bell, Otis Rush, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Fenton Robinson, Magic Sam, Hound Dog Taylor, Son Seals, Johnny “Big Moose” walker.

Last Class (more recent Chicago, West Coast, Piano Players and Lonnie Johnson): Sunnyland Slim, Jimmy Johnson, Johnny Littlejohn, Byther Smith, Pee Wee Crayton, T-Bone Walker, Saunders King, Roy Hawkins, L.C. Robinson, Percy Mayfield, Peetie Wheatstraw, Leroy Carr, Walter Roland, Curtis Jones, Charlie Spand, Champion Jack Dupree, Roosevelt Sykes, Lonnie Johnson

Frank Johnson has a lifelong passion and interest in African-American music: jazz, blues, rhythm & blues, soul, and Afro-Latin. He has a collection of over 4,000 albums covering these genres. In addition, he has a personal library of over 250 books on African-American musical styles, musicians and cultural influences. Frank is a graduate of the University of Maine with a degree in Political Science and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Program for Senior Executives of State and Local Government.