I'm Feeling the Blues Right Now

I'm Feeling the Blues Right Now: Blues Tourism in the Mississippi Delta

STEPHEN A. KING
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24hz78
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  • Book Info
    I'm Feeling the Blues Right Now
    Book Description:

    InI'm Feeling the Blues Right Now: Blues Tourism and the Mississippi Delta, Stephen A. King reveals the strategies used by blues promoters and organizers in Mississippi, both African American and white, local and state, to attract the attention of tourists. In the process, he reveals how promotional materials portray the Delta's blues culture and its musicians. Those involved in selling the blues in Mississippi work to promote the music while often conveniently forgetting the state's historical record of racial and economic injustice. King's research includes numerous interviews with blues musicians and promoters, chambers of commerce, local and regional tourism entities, and members of the Mississippi Blues Commission.

    This book is the first critical account of Mississippi's blues tourism industry. From the late 1970s until 2000, Mississippi's blues tourism industry was fragmented, decentralized, and localized, as each community competed for tourist dollars. By 2003-2004, with the creation of the Mississippi Blues Commission, the promotion of the blues became more centralized as state government played an increasing role in promoting Mississippi's blues heritage. Blues tourism has the potential to generate new revenue in one of the poorest states in the country, repair the state's public image, and serve as a vehicle for racial reconciliation.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-011-6
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VIII)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. IX-X)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. XI-XV)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. XVI-2)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-22)

    Since the 1960s, the blues has experienced numerous cultural revivals, attracting the attention of record companies, corporate sponsors, multinational companies, and a legion of new fans. Many predicted that the latest major blues revival in 2003, dubbed the Year of the Blues, would be a major success because, according toRolling Stonemagazine, the “blues is more important and more necessary now than it has ever been.”¹ The U.S. Senate designated 2003 the Year of the Blues because the blues is the “most celebrated form of American roots music” and blues musicians are “recognized and revered worldwide as unique and...

  6. 1 THE HISTORY OF THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA BLUES
    (pp. 23-53)

    In his excellent analysis of the origins of the blues, Peter C. Muir discovered that by 1550, the word “blues” moved beyond a simple reference to color and became associated with fear and misery. By 1616, the term “blue devil” emerged, a phrase first associated with a demon (at some later point, the plural “blue devils” became a metaphor for despondency). By the mid-eighteenth century, according to Muir, “blue devils” became “blues” or “the blues,” and subsequently both terms became increasingly associated with negative emotions.¹ Thus it is not surprising that when the blues first emerged as a musical genre,...

  7. 2 THE HISTORY OF BLUES TOURISM IN THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA
    (pp. 54-77)

    By the mid-1970s, the 1960s blues revival was quickly losing steam, leading one observer to announce that the “blues is now struggling for survival.”¹ The music’s temporary decline can be attributed to a number of factors: the civil rights movement, which played a role in sparking white interest in the blues during the 1960s, shifted to a less-visible, less-vocal maintenance stage; a generation of blues artists who were discovered and rediscovered during the blues revival had either died or were inactive; and African American interest in the blues, which had started dissipating during the 1960s, declined further with the emergence...

  8. 3 BLUES MYTHS AND THE RHETORICAL IMAGINATION OF PLACE
    (pp. 78-99)

    After decades of failing to properly appreciate and celebrate the state’s blues culture and heritage, Mississippi communities are clamoring to be officially recognized as contributing to the music’s long and convoluted historical legacy. For example, Clarksdale has longed proclaimed itself to be both home and birthplace of the blues, an argument largely based on a historical narrative that places many of the genre’s most revered blues musicians in the city’s juke joints or on the plantations that encircled the area. In contrast, other Delta towns’ claim on the blues is more limited, focusing on well-known blues musicians such as Robert...

  9. 4 BLUES FESTIVALS, RACE, AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF AUTHENTICITY
    (pp. 100-116)

    For some blues tourists, traveling to the birthplace of the blues and visiting the famed crossroads (among other blues attractions) embodies a much larger search for authenticity. Reminiscent of the white researchers and fans who traveled to the South decades earlier, hoping to discover the music’s origins and authentic representations of a vanishing folk culture, today’s blues pilgrims hope to find similar representations of authenticity. Tourism officials and blues promoters are certainly well aware that tourists are often on a quest for authenticity. The Mississippi Blues Commission advertises Mississippi as a “destination for seekers of authentic experiences.”¹ The Mississippi Development...

  10. 5 A BLUES COUNTERMEMORY The History of Mississippi, the Story of the Delta
    (pp. 117-139)

    The process of rhetorically packaging Mississippi’s blues culture and heritage involves efforts by official culture to privilege a particular understanding of the past. As we will see in chapter 6, blues promoters and cultural producers promote a revisionist history of the state, and the Delta region in particular, to sanitize a history of race relations that one observer correctly characterized as “awful.”¹ Thus, while promotional materials highlight the Delta as the birthplace of the blues and spotlight the region’s rustic and authentic blues culture, there is, not surprisingly, precious little information about Mississippi’s depressing record of state-sponsored oppression of African...

  11. 6 PUBLIC MEMORY, HISTORICAL AMNESIA, AND THE SHACK UP INN
    (pp. 140-163)

    Cultural tourism is a memory-building industry. The Mississippi Blues Trail encourages tourists to retrace, in reverse, the two Great Migration movements of the twentieth century. Blues tourists who kneel at the gravesites of Charley Patton and Sonny Boy Williamson II, visit Dockery Farms, or stand at Robert Johnson’s crossroads are participating in a larger and more complex institutional effort to reconstruct the past. Institutionalized efforts to use memory to promote the blues are, however, just one example of a wider cultural practice intended to support a growing trend among various states to develop tourism as a source of revenue. Without...

  12. 7 ASSESSING TOURISM GOALS Money, Image, and Reconciliation
    (pp. 164-192)

    No amount of historical amnesia or personal denial will erase Mississippi’s past.¹ Following a brief period of political, social, and personal freedom during Reconstruction, African Americans experienced political disenfranchisement and were virtually reduced to their previous slave status. Ensnared in an economic caste system that benefited white planters, African Americans were further demoralized by segregation laws designed to maintain the ideological commitment to white supremacy. Lynching, police brutality, and other heinous acts of white terror created an atmosphere of high anxiety and fear in practically all black communities in Mississippi and much of the South. Even a century after Abraham...

  13. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 193-238)
  15. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 239-267)
  16. SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY
    (pp. 268-270)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 271-277)