The King Biscuit Time Columns
The Blues Online, #6
By Glenn Weiser

These are the archived columns I've written for my King Biscuit Time column, The Blues Online. - GW


See also:

#6 - Usenet Newsgroups 

In last month's column we looked at Blues-L (www.blues.net/blues-FAQ.html), the email based subscribers-only list that is a main Internet discussion forum. Blues-L is only one such venue, though-other text-based groups for blues fans can be found on Usenet, a branch of the Internet consisting of over 90,000 newsgroups dedicated to almost every conceivable subject. On Blues-L, anything blues-related goes, but Usenet offers a choice of groups with more specific focuses- you can log onto groups for Delta Blues, Spanish or Italian speaking blues fans, Japanese blues fans, blues humor, and artist fan groups as well as general interest groups. Although the Boston Globe's Steve Morse recently reported the depressing statistic that sales of blues CDs have dwindled to 1% of the US market, you'd never know it after surfing Usenet and catching up on the latest blues buzz. 

Usenet can be accessed in different ways. The easiest is to use your Web browser, provided your ISP offers Usenet service (most do). If you're using Microsoft Internet Explorer, open Outlook Express and click on the "Subscribe to Newsgroups" link in the Newsgroups section. This will open the Newsgroup Subscription window. In the "Display Newsgroups Containing" box, type-you guessed it-"blues." Although a few irrelevant listings like a group for the St. Louis Blues hockey team and another for the band The Moody Blues will show up, most of the thirty-odd selections you'll find will be on topic. 

For Netscape users, go the menu bar of the browser and click on Window. This will open a dropdown menu. Click on Mail and Newsgroups, and then open the mail folders window by clicking on the part of the left border of the mail window marked by the double lines in between two triangles. If your ISP offers Usenet access, the news folder will be at the bottom of the folders tree. Click on the folder to open the News window. Under the Newsgroups header in the window, then click on the Subscribe to Newsgroups link to bring up the search box. 

If you're on AOL, click on the Services tab of the browser. On the Services dropdown menu, first click on Internet, and then on Newsgroups. This will call up the newsgroups menu. 

A quicker way to check on what newsgroups are available, though, is to go to Spider News at www.spidernews.com and type "blues" in the search box on the left under Search Newsgroups. Spider News also offers Usenet service for about $10 a month, as does Easynews at www.easynews.com. If you want to look further, go to www.usenet-provider.com, where you'll find a complete list of news servers and their rates. Once you settle on a service, either your ISP's or a paid server, you can read and post messages with same ease as using email. 

Surfing Usenet's blues groups as I write shows that while talk may be cheap, the information you can garner from newsgroups is often valuable. I download the group bit.listserv.blues, and before I realize that it is actually the Usenet edition of Blues-L, I read a post from KBT lensman Chuck Winans discussing a photo taken by blues impresario Dick Waterman during the 1964 Newport Folk Festival at the precise moment Skip James hit the opening chord of his debut set. James was facing the biggest audience he had ever seen in his life, and Winans, an award-winning photographer himself, has nothing but praise for the shot. From his post I also learn that Waterman has a book of photographs due out in October, about which Winanas has this to say: "I've seen most of the photos that are going in this book. Some are extremely famous shots (Son House, John Hurt, Skip James) and others have never seen public view since they were taken in the mid-1960s. While I don't want to make a bigger deal out of the book than it is, it may be the single most important book of blues photos to be published. Ever." 

The book immediately makes my Christmas list, even before I know its name, for Winans has neglected to mention the title. I post to Blues - L looking for it, and Chuck writes me offlist 90 minutes later to tell me it is Between Midnight & Day. Foreword by Bonnie Rait, he adds. 

Looking for bluer pastures, I move on, and download alt.music.blues.delta. I'm crazy about prewar blues in general and anyone who can play the Delta style authentically. A post from a Tom Geiger introduces me to a late bluesman I've never heard of, John Campbell. Describing him, Geiger says, "John was a gifted guitarist and blues man. His recorded legacy is not huge, but if you listen to the recordings that John left behind - it is easy to hear his mastery of the different forms of the blues. John played the old style country blues and also the more modern blues rock…If you have never heard of John Campbell, check out the website (www.devilinmycloset.net) John has been dead just over 10 years now, but he should be remembered as one of the greats. His Howlin Mercy recording for Elektra in 1993 should be considered a masterpiece" 

Curious, I follow the link, hit the site, and read more about Campbell, a white Louisiana born guitarist who was born in 1952 - the same year as I - and died at age 41 after living a rather hard life (he evidently had to sell his own blood on occasion to get money for new guitar strings). I'm forced to reflect on my own mortality, and think that death is the hellhound on all our trails. 

Dean Blobaum of The University of Chicago Press writes in to inform us that an interview with Adam Gussow, former harmonica player in the duo Satan and Adam and now a professor of English and southern studies at the University of Mississippi, is up the U of Chicago website at www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/310981in.html. To shine in academia, scholars need bold new theories, of course. Gussow, who I've met, argues, in Blobaum's words, that, "the blues were from the beginning a response to white southern violence--lynching in particular." I'd chalk it up to the oppression of the Jim Crow era in general myself, with white violence a major but by no means the sole factor, and initially consider Gussow's thesis somewhat reductionist. But I resolve to read the piece later and give him a fair hearing. 

I hop over to alt.music.blues, download the over 2,000 posts sitting on the server, and look over the headers. It's already 3:30 am and there's easily enough here to keep me up till dawn. Gamely, I open a review of the first segment of the PBS- TV miniseries The Blues by John Metzger. The Blues is being broadcast the week of this writing and is the current top story in the blues world. Metzger lauds the first part and awards it 5 stars (I've heard less sanguine opinions elsewhere, though). The whole review, covering four of the segments, is online here: www.musicbox-online.com/ms-blues.html. Soon afterwards, I'm tiring, and out of space. But I've learned a lot, and realize afresh what a gold mine of information awaits the blueshound on Usenet. 

© 2003 Glenn Weiser. All rights reserved.                                                               

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