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Mississippi John Hurt


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About the Author

Philip R. Ratcliffe is an independent ecological land-use consultant, a musician, and an ardent blues fan.


Phil Ratcliffe's account of a humble black Mississippian, who just happened to be a supremely gifted musician, is stunning in its detail. The author's meticulous research reveals the particulars of John Hurt's life, on stage and off.--Bruce Nemerov, Grammy Award-winning writer and musician
There is no question as to the exceptional quality of this biography of a major African American songster. Mississippi John Hurt has been memorialized in the conversion of his Avalon house to a museum, in the memorial tablet marking his Mississippi grave, and in the publication of Philip Ratcliffe's invaluable study.--Paul Oliver, author of numerous books on the blues, most recently Yonder Come the Blues: The Evolution of a Genre; Barrelhouse Blues: Location Recording and the Early Traditions of the Blues; and Broadcasting the Blues: Black Blues in the Segregation Era
Using a blend of archival work and field-collected interviews, Ratcliffe's meticulously researched biography presents an excellent overview of John Hurt's life and art as a Mississippi string band songster and as a central character in the folk revival. His reliance on interviews allows the participants in John Hurt's story to tell their own version of the artist's impact on their lives. These combined voices provide an intriguing portrait of one of America's best-loved musicians and storytellers--part songster, part saint. Along the way, Ratcliffe deals with the complex maneuvering and economic complexities of the folk revival with coherence and an even hand. This is a keen and lively biography that manages to be both a history of the times and a highly personal portrait of an uncommon and significant artist.--Barry Lee Pearson, author of Sounds So Good to Me: The Bluesman's Story; Virginia Piedmont Blues: The Lives of Two Virginia Bluesmen; Jook Right On: Blues Stories and Blues Storytellers; and, with Bill McCulloch, Robert Johnson: Lost and Found
What a wonderful book! Phil has been working on this biography for years. He has been busy digging up new and lost information as well as traveling the States to interview John Hurt's students, family, and friends. Mississippi John Hurt's 1928 recordings excited folk and blues aficionados. He then brightened the 1960s folk and blues world with his rediscovery. He was still the master guitar player and storyteller, but he showed us with his music and words his great wisdom and warmth. Phil has captured this spirit and how it has impacted on generations of guitar players and music lovers.--Stefan Grossman, author, musician, producer, and founder of Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop and Vestapol Productions

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