Memphis blues musician Little Laura Dukes, from the book Goin' Back to Sweet Memphis. (c) 2001 George D. Davidson
Memphis blues musician Big Amos, from the book Goin' Back to Sweet Memphis. (c) 2001 George D. Davidson
July 7, 2002 -- Before blues legend B.B. King was big enough even to pick up a guitar like his beloved "Lucille," other Memphis blues men -- and women -- were paving the way for his success, and pioneering the Beale Street sound. Big Amos Patton, Little Laura Dukes, Bukka White (who was King's cousin and biggest supporter) -- though many never became well-known nationally, they were Memphis blues legends. Now they've passed on; but their histories and voices have been preserved, thanks to Fred Hay and his tape recorder.
In the 1970s, Hay, then a student working on a college project, tracked down Memphis blues musicians and had them tell their stories and sing their songs on tape. Three decades later, Hay gathered his transcripts into a book called Goin' Back to Sweet Memphis: Conversations with the Blues. On All Things Considered, Hay shares some of the stories and music with host Korva Coleman.