Presentation on the life of Georgia blues legend Blind Willie McTell at Daemen October 8
Searching for Blind Willie McTell: A Biographer in the Deep South
September 3, 2013
Contact: Mike Andrei
Contact: Daemen Conference & Events Office
Information: (716) 839-8253
Michael Gray, author of Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes: In Search of Blind Willie McTell, will deliver a talk at Daemen College, “Searching for Blind Willie McTell.”
Gray, a British critic, writer, and broadcaster, is also the pioneering authority on the work of Bob Dylan. Gray made many trips to the American Deep South to research Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes: In Search of Blind Willie McTell, the only biography of Georgia’s greatest 12-string guitarist and pre-war blues singer.
McTell (1903-1959) began recording in 1927. His influence extended over a wide range of rock, blues, and folk musicians, including the Allman Brothers and, mostly famously, Bob Dylan.
In “Searching for Blind Willie McTell,” Gray will discuss the challenges he faced in researching a subject whose life was within a black community with an oral culture in the Deep South at a time of racial segregation, with virtually no existing written documentation – official or private – on him at all. Until Gray’s book, little had been written about McTell’s extraordinary life and superb work.
Gray also presents the story of getting the story – how it was possible to achieve a biography using field research and online genealogical resources to follow in the footsteps of a black American who lived in an oral culture and a segregated society.
Using McTell’s recordings and new and archive photographs, Gray brings this charismatic figure vividly to life and recounts his own adventures researching the book in places McTell lived and performed, from cities, to back roads, and tiny country churches.
Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes (Chicago Review Press) was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography, 2008, and won a 2010 Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) Certificate of Merit.
Event Information: Gray’s presentation will begin at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, October 8, in Wick Center on the Daemen campus, 4380 Main Street, Amherst. It is free and open to the public.