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Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes: In Search of Blind Willie McTell
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Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes: In Search of Blind Willie McTell

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3.91  ·  Rating details ·  79 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
By the time he died in 1959, Blind Willie McTell was almost forgotten. He had never had a hit record, and his days of playing on street corners for spare change were long gone. But this masterful guitarist and exquisite singer has since become one of the most loved musicians of the prewar period, spurring Bob Dylan to write, “Nobody can sing the blues like Blind Willie McT ...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Chicago Review Press (first published September 30th 2007)
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Paul Secor
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Michael Gray did yeoman work on this book. He interviewed seemingly everyone who was connected with Willie McTell and who was still alive when he did the research - early 2000's. He visited places where Willie McTell lived; he visited not only Willie McTell's gravesite (with a story of both the original and replaced headstone), but also his second (common law) wife's gravesite; even the hospital where McTell died - the building where he died is now a prison, and Gray was threatened by a redneck ...more
Jamie
Nov 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Best book I've read in awhile. Bar none, the best biography on any Blues artist...not that I'm an authority.

This book is much more than a bio about recording sessions with the Lomaxes and various other pre-war hucksters. Gray (renowned for his impressive Dylan research) does a deep dive into Southern history, walking us through the social history of the South, namely middle and south Georgia. As a Georgian, I found his research to be quite compelling, especially his treatment of the Civil War, J
...more
Pete daPixie
I spose after writing Song and Dance Man and The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, Michael Gray learned that 'nobody can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell', and so there began his next book.
Here is a sociological and genealogical trawl down the deep south. In his search for Blind Willie McTell, Gray is also telling the history of slavery, the civil war, segregation, Jim Crow and civil rights.
McTell died in 1959 in obscurity. His sparse and haphazard recording career only telling a very small part of
...more
Barry Hammond
Dec 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Blind Willie McTell was unusual among acoustic blues players of his period in that he played 12-string guitar and played church/gospel/spirituals as well as playing any other kind of music his audience wanted to hear also: be it country, popular songs,rags, or folk ballads. British researcher, Michael Gray, has done an excellent job of pinning down much of what can now be known of this itinerant early recording artist. McTell comes vividly to life in these pages and the reader gets a feel for wh ...more
Rick
Oct 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is more a rambling, self-celebrating narrative of someone trying to know as much as can be known about the great Georgia bluesman, Blind Willie McTell, than it is a coherent account of McTell’s life and work. If there was ever a biographical case of losing a forest for its trees this is it. Gray devotes pages, to cite one example, to describing his decades later visit to the mental hospital where a likely unconscious McTell spent the last week of his life and, beyond revealing the swea ...more
Brennan
Apr 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
I picked this up primarily because I was interested in the music of Willie McTell.

In that respect, I was somewhat disappointed. Gray covers McTell's recording sessions and musical career, and provides a thorough discography. But he has very little to say about McTell's musical influences, songwriting (much of which borrowed from earlier jazz and blues), or musical style. This is understandable because there is very sparse documentation available on those topics.

While the musical content was ligh
...more
Nick
Apr 07, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: music, biography, memoir
The search would have been shorter and easier to read without all the digressive comments on fast food restaurants, southern architecture or lack thereof, the Civil War experiences of Willie McTell's white great-grandfather, and more. Maybe it's because he's British and writing primarily for British readers, but I don't feel that I began to learn anything about Willie McTell until about page 200 although I learned a lot about Michael Gray's taste, experiences, etc. He clearly did a lot of resear ...more
Michael
Aug 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Being a fan of Willie McTells music I loved this book. Great biography. Well researched. I have actually been to his gravesite at Jones Grove Baptist church. A very interesting life indeed. And a person I wish more people had the pleasure of knowing. If you have never heard Blond Willie McTell, do yourself a favor, go to YouTube and listen to this man's music. You should be pleasantly surprised.
Jitte Van
Jan 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Blues fans and fans the Southern parts of the US and Peter Guralnick fans
Recommended to Jitte by: Mojo
One of the most awesome music books I've ever read! It helps if you're into old time acoustic blues... but in any event, it's also a great account of the South of the US of today and of days gone by...

Fantastic! On a par with Peter Guralnick's books.

Highly recommended for any self respecting blues fan out there.
Marcel
Mar 16, 2013 added it
Detailed history of life for rural blacks in Georgia between the end of the Civil War and post-World War II. You can tell the effort that went into tracing the geneology of the McTier (McTell) family. Mixed in with all that...some biography of McTell.
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Michael Gray is a critic, writer, public speaker & broadcaster recognised as a world authority on the work of Bob Dylan, and as an expert on rock’n’roll history. He also has a special interest in pre-war blues, and in travel.

He grew up near Liverpool, England, went to the Cavern, and graduated from the University of York with a BA in History & English in 1967, having interviewed (as a stud
...more
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