Encyclopedia of the blues /

Main Author: Herzhaft, Gérard.
Other Authors: Harris, Paul., Haussler, Jerry., Mikofsky, Anton J.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Fayetteville, AR : University of Arkansas Press, 1997.
Edition: 2nd ed.
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Review by Choice Review

The French original of this volume was published as Encyclop'edie du blues (Lyon, 1979). Herzhaft has also written two brief monographs on popular genres Le Blues (1981) and La Country-music (1984) in the French series "Que sais-je?" The second of Herzhaft's works to appear in translation from this publisher, the encyclopedia follows Long Blues in A minor (1988). The encyclopedia's preface credits most of the major American and French blues specialists for their assistance. Alas, they evidently were not readers of the final draft. The subject is one to which the author is devoted, but not as a scholar. The biographical entries are not critical, and no effort has been made to provide documentation for more than the casual reader, despite the end matter: a respectable classified bibliography, a terse but annotated discography (including recorded anthologies), a listing of titles regarded as "standards," a directory of musicians by their instruments, and an index. Symptomatic of cautions needed regarding the hard facts is the matter of life dates, normally at variance (but without explanation) with those painstakingly provided in Sheldon Harris's splendid Blues Who's Who (CH, Jun'80). Including Harris, 52 sources cite Chuck Berry's birth in 1926, but 1931 is reported here; no death date is offered for Cripple Clarence Lofton even if all major references agree on 1957; yet deaths that occurred in the year of this publication are provided. Recommended only for libraries wishing comprehensive collections on the blues. D. -R. de Lerma; Columbia College (IL)

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

Herzhaft's Encyclopedia of the Blues has been translated from the French for American audiences. It covers a wide variety of topics. Entries are mainly biographical but also include genres, festivals, instruments, and styles. Biographical entries include dates of birth and death, if appropriate. They stress career influences, achievements, performances, and style rather than personal life. A limited number of recordings are noted in the sketches. Artists are listed under their popular names. For a performer like Barbecue Bob, there are no cross-references from his real name, nor is his real name in the index. Some people are discussed under such genres as Blues Shouters, Female Blues Singers, and White Blues. There are references from the names of those performers to the group entry. Some of these people deserve entries of their own, especially such performers as Alberta Hunter and Paul Butterfield. Other entries range from American Folk Blues Festival, which was a part of the European revival of the blues, to histories of instruments (Bass), definitions of genres (Delta Blues), and histories of musical styles in famous blues cities (Chicago). The volume closes with a select bibliography arranged by subject. A discography of 200 important blues albums doesn't compare with the recent Down Home Guide to the Blues [RBB N 1 91]. There is also a list of 300 classic blues songs with a brief history of each and a list of musicians arranged by the instrument they played. Large black-and-white photographs add interest. Blues Who's Who (1979) is perhaps the most comparable work. The Encyclopedia of the Blues presents biographical material in a narrative form as opposed to Blues Who's Who, which is a chronological listing of accomplishments. Blues Who's Who is only biographical. The two books don't always agree on facts. Texas Alexander, for example, was born variously in 1880 and 1890 and died in 1954 and 1955. The Encyclopedia of the Blues is, of course, more current and has broader coverage. Libraries owning Blues Who's Who and getting few blues-related questions may want to pass, but for libraries with an active blues audience, this will be a good addition. (Reviewed Jan. 1, 1993)

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

French ``bluesologist'' Herzhaft's updated version of Nouvelle Encyclopedie du Blues (published in Paris in 1984) is primarily a biographical sourcebook, with occasional brief thematic articles (e.g., ``East Coast Blues'') and appended discography. However, the biographies are fewer and less substantial than those in Sheldon Harris's excellent Blues Who's Who ( LJ 7/79), and users will note numerous discrepancies in factual data between these two sources, especially concerning years of birth. Some readers may also be irked by the space accorded some performers: Soul artist Ann Peebles rates a full article, whereas the legendary Alberta Hunter is relegated to a paragraph under ``Female Blues Singers.'' Recommended only as a supplement to Harris, not as a sole source.-- Anthony J. Adam, Prairie View A&M Univ. Lib., Tex. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.