Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes

Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes
Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes

Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes

In Search of Blind Willie McTell
By Michael Gray


448 Pages, 6 x 9 1/4

Formats: Cloth, EPUB, Mobipocket, PDF

Cloth, $26.95 (US $26.95) (CA $29.95)

ISBN 9781556529757

Rights: US & CA

Chicago Review Press (Sep 2009)


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“Nobody can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell.” —Bob Dylan
By the time he died in 1959, Blind Willie McTell was almost forgotten. He had never had a hit record, and his days of playing on street corners for spare change were long gone. But this masterful guitarist and exquisite singer has since become one of the most loved musicians of the prewar period, spurring Bob Dylan to write, “Nobody can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell.” Now this richly evocative and wide-ranging biography illuminates for the first time the world of this elusive and fascinating figure, a blind man who made light of his disability and a performer who exploded every stereotype about blues musicians. Traveling the back roads of Georgia, interviewing relatives and acquaintances, and digging up fascinating archival material, author Michael Gray weaves together his discoveries to reveal an articulate and resourceful musician with a modest career but a mile-wide independent streak. Whether selling high-quality homemade bootleg whisky out of a suitcase, bragging about crowds of women chasing him, or suffering a stroke while eating barbecue under a tree, McTell emerges from this book a cheerful, outgoing, engaging individualist with seemingly limitless self-confidence. This moving odyssey into a lost world of black music and white power is also an unprecedented portrait of the culture, language, and landscape of the deep South--the violence, the leisurely pace of life--and of the blues preservationists who ventured into its heart. A long, thoughtful stare into the world of Blind Willie McTell, Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes is sure to find a place among the classics of American music history. To learn more about the book, visit www.handmemytravelinshoes.blogspot.com


"The most comprehensive work to date on the bluesman." —Booklist

"Gray paints an evocative portrait." —Kirkus Reviews

"A superb meditation on a rare American figure, one who grows more mysterious and iconic the more Gray reveals of his facts and context; a brilliant exhibition of how musical study becomes cultural study; and an elegant and passionate book that expands until its subjects seems to be time and memory themselves." —Jonathan Lethem, author, The Fortress of Solitude

"The blues is the bedrock of popular music, and while its story has been told many times, rarely has it been told as effectively as this." —Record Collector

"More than a search for the bluesman Blind Willie McTell, this is an evocation of a whole vanished world . . . Part biography, part genealogy, part history, part travel writing, this wonderful book is suffused with empathy for its subject." —Independent on Sunday

“[An] assiduous work of reclamation." —Observer

"A wonderful book about a spellbinding musician." —Guardian

"Gray . . . presents not just an authoritative portrait of the great bluesman, but also vivid history of the South in general and the area of rural Georgia that was mostly home to McTell, with an especially vivid account of the Civil War." —Uncut

Author Biography

Michael Gray is the author of The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, Song & Dance Man III: The Art of Bob Dylan, Mother: The Frank Zappa Story, and others. He has written many travel features for U.K. newspapers, as well as obituaries for major figures in rock ’n’ roll. Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes was shortlisted for the prestigious James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography. For more information, please visit www.michaelgray.net