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The Land Where the Blues Began

Documentary by Alan Lomax


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Discovering the Blues


An exploratory look into the origin of southern blues told by the people who lived them. The 1979 film captures the performances of lifelong bluesmen including Belton Sutherland, Clyde Maxwell, Jack Owens, and Bud Spires who tell of the hard labor, isolation, abject poverty, and racism experienced by most rural southern blacks. Not ideal conditions for human prosperity, but the perfect climate to spawn the blues.

Beginning with his father, folklorist John Lomax, during the 1930s Alan traveled throughout the Mississippi Delta collecting recordings for the folk song archive of the Library Of Congress. In 1933 the father son duo made their greatest find at Angola Prison in Louisiana with the twelve string guitar toting bluesman and songster Huddie Ledbetter (aka Lead Belly). When his father retired Alan Lomax went on to work for the Library Of Congress himself during which time he first discovered and recorded McKinley Morganfield (aka Muddy Waters) living in a small cabin on a Stovall, Mississippi plantation.

"The Land Where the Blues Began" is part of a five film series compiled from footage shot by Alan Lomax, John M. Bishop, and Worth Long between 1978 and 1985.

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