John Rockwood: Rockwood on the Blues-Portraits in Words and Pictures
Books & Exhibits
Sunday, 22 January 2006 06:58
John Gibbs Rockwood
Rockwood on the Blues: Portraits in Words and Pictures
Introduction by John Sinclair
In John Rockwood's remarkable photographs you can see the blues in the faces and postures of its leading modern artists almost as well as you can hear it in their music. So many of these giants are no longer with us, yet their spirit and vibration remain with us today in their recordings and in images like these captured on film by the ubiquitous Mr. Rockwood.
Many of John's photographic subjects--Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins, Buddy Guy--are well known by blues lovers all over the world. Modern-day legends like Bo Diddley, Professor Longhair and Stevie Ray Vaughn add to the list of celebrated artists, while others not as well recognized by the record-buying public but equally well regarded by blues connoisseurs are present in all their glory: James Cotton, J.B. Hutto, Roosevelt Sykes, Floyd Jones, David 'Honeyboy' Edwards, Katie Webster, Frank Frost, Houston Stackhouse, Sunnyland Slim, each caught in characteristic action and preserved here for our delectation and delight.
What makes this collection uniquely Rockwood's is the inclusion of portraits of several painfully obscure bluesmen--Washboard Willie, Jake The Shake Woods, Roman Griswold, Big Jack Reynolds, Little Walter Mitchell--native to Detroit and Toledo, the photographer's home territory, or in other habitats equally remote from the modern blues mainstream, like the northeastern Mississippi hills of Othar Turner or the Deep South chitlin' circuit traveled by saxophonist Grady 'Fats' Jackson.
Rockwood has been shooting the blues with his camera for more than 30 years, traveling all over the United States to snap his favorite artists in their homes and haunts or on stage at festivals and nightclubs wherever they might appear. For the past dozen years he's also functioned as a blues producer and record label owner with Blue Suit Records, cutting excellent albums by Eddie Burns, Honeyboy Edwards, Sir Mack Rice, the Griswold Brothers, Big Jack Reynolds, Detroit Junior and others.
John Rockwood's photos have graced the covers and liners of LPs and CDs and the pages of magazines and books by others for a good many years, but now we have them here within the covers of a single volume to study and enjoy for a long time to come. The author's short texts which accompany the photos shed additional light on his subjects and the milieu which has produced them and add measurably to our pleasure.
Rockwood on the Blues is a welcome entry to the list of books which celebrate and document America's stunningly original art form and the brilliant blues artists who have brought it to life for us. May it be only the first of many such collections by Mr. Rockwood to bring his work to public attention.
. --New Orleans
April 3, 1999
(c) 1999, 2006 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.