Wolfe, Charles, and Lornell, Kip: The Life And Legend Of Leadbelly

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Wolfe, Charles, and Lornell, Kip: The Life And Legend Of Leadbelly


Published: 1992 Harper Collins, this ed. Da Capo Press 1999, 332 pages
ISBN 0-306-80896-X

A very detailed biography of Huddie Ledbetter, 1889-1949. While succeeding with the primary task of documenting Huddie's amazing life the book also illuminates the times, places, attitudes, morals and mores of each of the many locations and their inhabitants. General consensus seems to be, and I agree, this is one of the great musical bios.

Pros: Great documentation, including discography. Excellent creative writing focused squarely and, mostly, impartially on the subject. Provides deep insight into Leadbelly's upbringing, personality, musical influences, travails and travels through Louisiana, Texas, New York and California. Believable descriptions of complex motivations and relationships, particularly with John and Alan Lomax. Never boring.

Cons: I would like to have heard more from Brownie McGhee beyond the tantalizing snippets. A map of Shreveport showing the exact location of St Paul's Bottoms would be an excellent addition, see forum discussion on this subject.

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