New York native Adam Gussow arrived on a hot and humid University of Mississippi campus in August of 2002, harmonica in hand. The Center for Study of Southern Culture was in need of a blues expert at the time, and he was exactly what they were looking for. Gussow said moving from Vassar College in New York state to small-town Mississippi was a big transition, but it was an ideal one.
In a cultural climate based on the superficial, one has to wonder how much deeper the annual Elvis Death Day observances go than mere tradition and habit. Can such events be mined for anything worth knowing about the world we live in today? Was there more to be learned from Death Day ten years ago? Twenty years ago? Thirty? Those might be the most interesting questions of all to ask about what happens in Memphis on August 15.
The Mississippi Arts Commission today launched a new digital version of the journal Mississippi Folklife, a publication with a long history at the Center. Congratulations to the MAC, and especially Jennifer Joy Jameson, the Folk and Traditional Arts Director, managing editor. We’re particularly excited about the involvement of Amanda Malloy, a current SST graduate student who serves as Visual Arts Editor. Amy C. Evans, former SFA oral historian, is the Custom Editor. Mississippi Folklife will also include a “Mississippi Stories” series of films produced by Rex Jones of the Southern Documentary Project.
In 1963, the magazine Blues Unlimited was instrumental to the British blues revival by giving voice to famous, forgotten, undiscovered, or underappreciated blues musicians from the US. The magazine set the standard for documenting blues history through the use of long-form interviews, and in many ways it paved the way for magazines such as Living Blues.
The October 2015 issue of Living Blues features a cover story on Guy Davis, son of actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. In this revealing interview, Davis sees his music as an extension of his ancestry, reflecting the broad African American experience. Other interviews include a talk with California-based Henry Clement reflecting on his 60-plus year career stretching back to his work as a studio musician for the famed Excello label and part one of a two-part interview with producer and songwriter Quinton Claunch who helped found the Memphis-based Goldwax and Hi Record labels.
Center journal Study the South has a new article by Jaime Cantrell, “Put a Taste of the South in Your Mouth: Carnal Appetites and Intersextionality.”
Jaime Cantrell’s essay reveals the tactile resonances, social dimensions, and affective possibilities of thinking sex through southern food in fiction and poetry from Dorothy Allison, doris davenport, and Minnie Bruce Pratt.
The August issue of Living Blues is available now and features our cover story on Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater. Clearwater turned 80 earlier this year and we decided it was a good time to catch up with one of Chicago Blues’ elder statesman.
The new issue also includes a look back at the life and career of the King of the Blues, B.B. King. First, we examine King’s career and influence as covered via the pages of LB. Writer David Whiteis’ tribute gives an overview of King’s life and influence and we wrap things up with a decade-by-decade guide to B.B. King’s albums.
This week, my book Subduing Satan: Recreation, Religion, and Manhood in the Rural South, 1865-1920, turns 25 years old. I remember the date because the book showed up in my mailbox the weekend I turned 30. As birthdays go, the 25th year of a work of history really doesn’t call for or deserve much attention. But it intrigues me to think about it, so I hope anyone reading this will forgive me if writing about my aging book seems a combination of self-congratulation, penitence, and nostalgia. Heaven knows southern history already has plenty of all three.