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New York City BluesNew York City Blues

Postwar Portraits from Harlem to the Village and Beyond

Larry Simon and John Broven

Narrated by David Ruyle

Available from Audible


Book published by University Press of Mississippi


A first-ever book on the subject, New York City Blues: Postwar Portraits from Harlem to the Village and Beyond offers a deep dive into the blues venues and performers in the city from the 1940s through the 1990s. Interviews in this volume bring the reader behind the scenes of the daily and performing lives of working musicians, songwriters, and producers. The interviewers capture their voices — many sadly deceased — and reveal the changes in styles, the connections between performers, and the evolution of New York blues.

New York City Blues is an oral history conveyed through the words of the performers themselves, supplemented by the input of Val Wilmer, Paul Harris, and Richard Tapp. The book also features the work of award-winning author and blues scholar John Broven. Along with writing a history of New York blues for the introduction, Broven contributes interviews with Rose Marie McCoy, “Doc” Pomus, Billy Butler, and Billy Bland. Some of the artists interviewed by Larry Simon include Paul Oscher, John Hammond Jr. , Rosco Gordon, Larry Dale, Bob Gaddy, “Wild” Jimmy Spruill, and Bobby Robinson.

New York City Blues delivers a strong sense of the major personalities and places such as Harlem’s Apollo Theatre, the history, and an in-depth introduction to the rich variety, sounds, and styles that made up the often-overlooked New York City blues scene.

Larry Simon is a guitarist and composer. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, he has recorded and toured with many of today’s leading jazz and blues artists. As a composer he has written extensively for dance, film, and theatre. Simon has also worked with poets Robert Pinsky, John Sinclair and others.

John Broven is a respected expert on the rock ’n’ roll era, lending his knowledge to BBC Radio and NPR to discuss genres from swamp pop to the blues. He coedited the British magazine Blues Unlimited and cofounded Juke Blues Magazine. He is author of three highly regarded books on the history of blues and roots music, Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers; Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans; and South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous.

REVIEWS:

“New York has been a magnet for so many styles of music that its impressive range of blues artists has tended to be overlooked. Larry Simon and John Broven display the rich tapestry of New York blues, with threads from Georgia, Florida, and Texas twining with Harlem, Brooklyn, and Greenwich Village. The voices are notably varied, from little-known neighborhood favorites to million-selling songwriters, and range across the jazz, rock, soul, and folk scenes. The result is half history, half family reunion; a warm and vibrant survey that reminds me of old favorites and inspires me to check out some artists I should know better. ”

—Elijah Wald, musician and author of Escaping the Delta, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll, and Dylan Goes Electric!

“In New York City Blues, Larry Simon makes an essential contribution to our collective understanding of how American culture actually became American culture: through the volatile (but tasty) commingling of Blacks, Beats, folkies, jazzers, hippies, and punks in a stewpot of clubs, bars, lofts, and concert halls between Harlem and East Houston Street. Their penchant for flatted thirds elevated our world, and their first-hand recollections—pardon the expression, but they rock.”

—Randall Rothenberg, executive chair at Interactive Advertising Bureau and author of Where the Suckers Moon: The Life and Death of an Advertising Campaign

“A beautifully rich, intimate, and highly personal history of New York City blues. An extraordinary document. ”

—Meg Rosoff, author of How I Live Now and The Great Godden

“A really important book! Larry Simon, John Broven, and others have done a fine job with this first book ever on the history of New York City blues. Not just an excellent historical survey, but it is also filled with great stories told directly by important artists and record men. ”

—Paul Oscher (1947–2021), Muddy Waters’s harmonica player from 1967 to 1971





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