Cover image for A blues life
A blues life
Townsend, Henry.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xiv, 145 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.
Like a bullet -- The sweetest guitar I've ever played -- Revenge is sweet -- Have fun with it -- The music is a mind disturber -- A very good hustle -- Making it pretty don't help a bit.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML419.T68 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Recounts Townsend's early days as a shoeshiner fronting for a bootlegging operation, his passion for the guitar, and his collaborations and friendships with many of the musicians and entrepreneurs who shaped the blues scene in St. Louis.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

"Your life is the life you live. What you live is how it should be written." So says Townsend on the last page of his as-told-to-autobiography describing almost 90 years of a bluesman's life. A St. Louis legend and one of the last of the pioneering bluesmen, Townsend was 20 when he made his first recording in 1929. He not only entertained audiences over seven decades, he had the chance to be exposed to most of the original blues innovators and he influenced many blues artists. Presented in Townsend's own voice--not always the best English, but effective, pungent, and to the point--this book was published just weeks after Townsend's 90th birthday, which was observed with a weekend of special concerts in St. Louis. He reveals as much about being black in the US as he does about the blues. He talks freely without regret or shame about a life that often, like the music he created, went over the line. Credit Greensmith for preserving the wonderful conversational tone of Townsend's narrative, for providing chapter notes that add details, and for a discography that goes to 1997. An excellent addition to the extensive "Music in American Life" series. All collections of 20th-century popular music. C. M. Weisenberg; University of California, Los Angeles

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. xi
1 "Like a Bullet"p. i
2 "The Sweetest Guitar I've Ever Played"p. 20
3 "Revenge Is Sweet"p. 31
4 "Have Fun with It"p. 51
5 "The Music Is a Mind Disturber"p. 65
6 "A Very Good Hustle"p. 88
7 "Making It Pretty Don't Help a Bit"p. 101
Notesp. 113
Discographyp. 127
Bibliographyp. 139
Indexp. 141