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Encyclopedia of the Blues, Second Edition by Gerard Herzhaft

When I reviewed this book in 1993 I gave it high marks; even with all its typos (many of them present four years later!) it filled a void. Since then Robert Santelli’s Big Book of the Blues and last year’s All Music Guide to the Blues, which cover the field more convincingly, have appeared. Except for a few career updates (e.g., Jesse Thomas, Magic Slim), new adds (Larry Garner), separate headings (James Harman, Rod Piazza) and a batch of new photos (including two howlers: Luther “Rucker” on p. 178 and Frankie Lee [Jones] for Frankie Lee Sims on p. 187), there hasn’t been that much added to warrant this edition.

Albert Collins, whose photo is on the cover, is another example: none of his Pointblank CDs are mentioned-it’s as though his career stalled after he left Alligator Records in 1989. In his Select Discography, Herzhaft again moans that “we are waiting” for Big Joe Turner’s first Decca recordings to appear. Surely l990’s I’ve Been to Kansas City ought to have reached his home in France by now.

The list goes on. Herzhaft’s vital statistics suffer from a similar lackadaisical approach: William Clarke died in 1996, not 1997; Albert King died in December 1992, not “early 1993;” Peppermint Harris, listed as having died in 1995, was playing in Sacramento in 1996. The bibliography-which has been revamped the most-lists the Leadbitter, Fancourt and Pelletier Blues on Record L to Z, which came out in ’95, as still “forthcoming.” To consider this an improvement on his first edition is unconscionable.

Originally Published