Roots of the Blues

By  |  March 1, 2017
House party at Junior Kimbrough’s. All photographs by David Katzenstein, courtesy of the artist House party at Junior Kimbrough’s. All photographs by David Katzenstein, courtesy of the artist

Between 1988 and ’89, I made two trips to Arkansas and Mississippi with Robert Palmer, who was one of the country’s most respected writers and historians about the history of blues music. We were on assignment for Rolling Stone magazine, and because of Bob’s contacts we had important access to numerous musicians in the area. What became clear as we began our journey together, searching for the roots of the blues, was that the music is part of the Delta landscape and the people we encountered were carrying on an important tradition that spanned many decades. My goal was to visually depict their lives and their love of the musical tradition in which they lived.

My time on the road with Bob was very special. His unbridled excitement of all things Southern was infective. By day we drove to visit musicians in their homes and towns, and by night we visited blues clubs, juke joints, and house parties. Bob’s encyclopedic knowledge of the music and musicians made for an amazing journey.

 


In our Visions of the Blues music issue: one of David Katzenstein’s photographs from this project accompanies Rashod Ollison’s essay “Play Me Down Home,” and Jay Jennings profiles Robert Palmer.

David Katzenstein is a New York City–based photographer who has spent over thirty years working on documentary projects in more than fifty countries. A keen interest in music and musicians’ lives has taken him on assignments to far off lands and nearby boroughs, and his knowledge of the world and ability to adapt to different cultures is matched by his love of people, his sense of humor, and his desire to show positive aspects of all cultures.