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Going Up the Country - Adventures in Blues Fieldwork in the 1960s

Going Up the Country

Adventures in Blues Fieldwork in the 1960s

By Marina Bokelman & David Evans
Foreword by Stephen Wade
Series: American Made Music Series

Hardcover : 9781496841971, 328 pages, 106 b&w photographs, November 2022
Paperback : 9781496841988, 328 pages, 106 b&w photographs, November 2022

A fascinating collaboration from two scholars working in the South during a crucial point in blues history


At the height of the blues revival, Marina Bokelman and David Evans, young graduate students from California, made two trips to Louisiana and Mississippi and short trips in their home state to do fieldwork for their studies at UCLA. While there, they made recordings and interviews and took extensive field notes and photographs of blues musicians and their families. Going Up the Country: Adventures in Blues Fieldwork in the 1960s presents their experiences in vivid detail through the field notes, the photographs, and the retrospective views of these two passionate researchers. The book includes historical material as well as contemporary reflections by Bokelman and Evans on the times and the people they met during their southern journeys. Their notes and photographs take the reader into the midst of memorable encounters with many obscure but no less important musicians, as well as blues legends, including Robert Pete Williams, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Al Wilson (cofounder of Canned Heat), Babe Stovall, Reverend Ruben Lacy, and Jack Owens.

This volume is not only an adventure story, but also a scholarly discussion of fieldwork in folklore and ethnomusicology. Including retrospective context and commentary, the field note chapters describe searches for musicians, recording situations, social and family dynamics of musicians, and race relations and the racial environment, as well as the practical, ethical, and logistical problems of doing fieldwork. The book features over one hundred documentary photographs that depict the field recording sessions and the activities, lives, and living conditions of the artists and their families. These photographs serve as a visual counterpart equivalent to the field notes. The remaining chapters explain the authors’ methodology, planning, and motivations, as well as their personal backgrounds prior to going into the field, their careers afterwards, and their thoughts about fieldwork and folklore research in general. In this enlightening book, Bokelman and Evans provide an exciting and honest portrayal of blues field research in the 1960s.


"In Going Up the Country, Evans and Bokelman offer a vivid snapshot of an era of ethnographic fieldwork with its own assumptions, procedures, vocabulary, etiquette, sensitivities, and blind spots. Anyone who fell in love with blues music in the 1960s or who recognizes its enduring importance today will find this book an honest, sometimes painful, sometimes funny opportunity to ride along."

- Erika Brady, professor of folk studies at Western Kentucky University

"If I told y’all everything I like about this book, it’d be too many pages long, so just let me say that if you love blues like I do, this is a joy to read, and every page is fascinating. I highly recommend it."

- Charlie Musselwhite, Grammy Award–winning blues harp player

"Marina Bokelman and David Evans share their highly personal perspectives regarding their fieldwork into the downhome blues traditions found largely in rural Louisiana and Mississippi during the summers of 1966 and 1967 in Going Up the Country. Their engaging call and response reveal a great deal not only about the nature and importance of their months-long odysseys, but also about their musical, academic, and personal lives before and after their experiences. Going Up the Country is an intimate, detailed, and truly singular account that has been a long time coming."

- Kip Lornell, professor at George Washington University and author of eighteen books on American vernacular music

"This is a monumental work that plunges the reader into the sixties through the blues culture of the Deep South. It is a deeply American tale of discovery, sadness, and celebration that truly touches the heart."

- William Ferris, author of Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues

"The core of the book is an evocative tour through the lives of blues and gospel singers, with a level of detail and attention to both the music and their lives rivaling any blues study before or since."

- Alex Greene, Memphis Flyer

"A tremendously compelling book. . . This is a study of life, real life, in a pivotal place and a crucial time, with two bright and intrepid young scholars taking copious notes along the way."

- David Wesley Williams, Chapter 16

"This is a book to acquire and savor."

- Chris Smith, Blues and Rhythm

"The journeys and their hardships are depicted in the form of meticulous "diary entries", which make for fascinating reading and are excellently complemented by Bokelman's evocative photos."

- Charley Nilsson, Jefferson

"Readers who are familiar with the blues will be fascinated by Evans and
Bokelman’s accounts of their personal encounters with musicians."

- David Ferris, Journal of Southern History