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The Devil’s Reading

Serious blues writing got a powerful if naively researched jumpstart with the still indispensible, late-’50s and early-’60s books of Sam Charters and Paul Oliver, the latter in England, where by the early 1970s it was also possible to find Robert Johnson transcriptions and John Fahey’s revised master thesis on Charley Patton. Young American blues lovers of the ’60s went south in search of records, information and musicians, walking in the shoes of John and Alan Lomax, hunting for their own Lead Belly, “collectors” in every sense. They did good work: Some, like Giles Oakley, Peter Guralnick and William Ferris,

published serious studies, and others, like Nick Perls, opened his collection to everyone with his label, Yazoo, though he was not overly concerned with rights and royalties.

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