Song of the Week: “Memphis Blues” by Morton Harvey

by Douglas Cowie on 18 May 2018

Each Friday I pick a song–new, old, borrowed, blue–that’s been on my mind and in my ears, and write a short post about it.

This is “Memphis Blues” by Morton Hunter:

I recently read Beale Street Dynasty by Preston Lauterbach, which is basically a history of Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, and the political machine that grew up on and around that street in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Lauterbach traces the transformation of a Beale Street song called “Joe Turney’s Been Here and Gone,” about a Tennessee penitentiary agent, into a campaign song “Mr Crump,” used as a rallying number in support of Edward Hull Crump, who would become boss of the powerful political machine that ran Memphis, and eventually into W.C. Handy’s “Memphis Blues.” While “Memphis Blues” isn’t the first blues song per se, it is the song that brought the blues, and in particular the twelve-bar, three-line structure, to a wider (and whiter) audience.

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