The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004 Page: 492
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
than one hundred black and white insightful photographs that overwhelm you
with their intense clarity and simplicity. The prose and pictures not only docu-
ment the cultural history of three generations of Houston blues men and blues
women, but they pay a loving tribute to them and their legacy.
The author begins his historical journey with Sam "Lightnin"' Hopkins, the
godfather of Texas blues. Tracing the career of Lightnin' is a case study in East
Texas and Louisiana rural-to-urban migration by African Americans during the
early twentieth century. Within the urban environment of central Houston, the
folk and country blues evolved into a hybrid blend of gospel, Creole jazz, and
the new electric rhythm and blues. Scores of interviews detail the contributions
of Lightnin' and the other notable artists of this emerging urban blues tradi-
tion-Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Gatemouth Brown,
and Clifton Chenier. Unlike many blues surveys, Wood provides insight into the
contributions, as well as the varying roles, of the female blues performers such as
Katie Webster and Miss LaVelle White. His focus on Evelyn Johnson, the brains
and energy behind Duke-Peacock Records, is especially enlightening and cer-
tainly make her worthy of a chapter in any future Texas women's study.
Roger Wood illustrates the national impact of the Houston blues scene with
his analysis of Don Robey and his Duke-Peacock record-producing empire.
Combining the Houston and Memphis blues recording industry, Don Robey
created "an enterprise that developed into the largest and most influential
African American owned-and-operated record conglomerate in the world dur-
ing the 1950s and early 196os" (p. 194). Wood lays out a logical and convinc-
ing thesis that Robey's ability to capture the blues on vinyl-then sell those
records to both black and white audiences-helped give birth to rock and roll.
Certainly the soulful sounds that emanated from such clubs as Shady's
Playhouse, Miss Ann's Playpen, and the Bronze Peacock Dinner Club were a
catalyst for that musical revolution.
For the music lover, Down in Houston: Bayou Czty Blues is fun and rewarding,
with endless new possibilities for roots music discovery. For the historian, this is
a valuable cultural study as a neighborhood, its people, and its music survived
and flourished from Jim Crow through the Civil Rights era. In this age of slick
videos and targeted marketing, Roger Wood provides a refreshing reminder of
the musical passion to be found deep in the heart of Houston.
Austin Community College LARRY WILLOUGHBY
Fred Harris: Hzs Journey from Liberalsm to Populism. By Richard Lowitt (Lanham,
Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2002. Pp. xv+285. Preface,
illustrations, epilogue, notes, index. ISBN 0-7425-2162-1. $39.95, cloth.)
"Who is Fred Harris?" is a question that most Americans-including many profes-
sional historians-would bring to the subject of his book. Indeed, it is a question
that Richard Lowitt has already anticipated in writing this political study, noting
that even during the height of Fred Harris's career as a senator from Oklahoma
during LyndonJohnson's and Richard Nixon's administrations, "his was not exactly
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004, periodical, 2004; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101224/m1/550/: accessed May 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.