Tom Piazza’s books include the novels A Free State and City Of Refuge, the post-Katrina manifesto Why New Orleans Matters, and the essay collection Devil Sent The Rain. He was a principal writer for the HBO drama series TREME, and the winner of a Grammy Award for his album notes to Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: A Musical Journey. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic, Columbia Journalism Review, and many other periodicals. He lives in New Orleans.
A story from our 2001 Southern Music issue.
I first heard Charley Patton thirty years ago, on a two-LP compilation called The Story of the Blues, which I won in a contest. My adolescent ear was immediately sucked in by the mystery, the wit, the slyness, and the expressive variety of the performances of Blind Boy Fuller, Memphis Minnie, Texas Alexander, Leroy Carr, Barbecue Bob, Bessie Smith, Big Joe Turner, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Otis Spann, Blind Willie McTell, and the rest.