CBMR Provides Research Assistance for New Book on Chicago Blues
After I signed the contract to write my first book, Exploring Chicago Blues: Inside the Scene, Past and Present (Charleston, S.C.: The History Press, 2014), I began my research by studying interviews and gleaning information from the Chicago Historical Society. The interviews with legendary blues musicians and noted blues historians which I found at the Historical Society served as the foundation for my book, but I hoped to access additional materials from other sources that would provide credible Chicago blues history. In the middle of my writing, I remembered that the Center for Black Music Research, which was right next door to my morning classes at Columbia College Chicago, could provide a gold mine of information, including photos and first-person accounts.
Visiting the CBMR one morning between classes, I was reminded of the array of specific blues information that the Center possesses. There were two shelves devoted to Chicago blues and another that concentrated on other blues topics. I was able to complete my book’s chapter outline using reference books from the CBMR, where I was ecstatic to discover material that was clearly cataloged and readily accessible. But that was just the beginning. Soon, the indispensable CBMR librarian, Janet Harper, was sending me information on available blues archives, with personal notes, interviews, and photos of Chicago blues artists. Gleaning the information, I was able to add rich details to the anecdotes I provide in my book. I ended up spending many afternoons at the CBMR, where the majority of my reference research was conducted. Toward the end of my research, I was enthralled by a presentation that Harper gave to a class on blues history. She played records dating from the 1920s and lined a table with blues photos, ads, and memorabilia. (I was heartbroken that the production process for my book was too far along to include images of the memorabilia in my book.) Every time I went to the CBMR Library and Archives, new treasures were unveiled. I was so pleased with my experience at CBMR that I raved about the richness of the blues research to all of the blues artists that I interviewed. A few have pledged to leave their personal documents and photos to the center, convinced that it will serve researchers well.
Rosalind Cummings-Yeates is a Chicago-born journalist and writer specializing in travel and culture topics, including music, art, and fashion. She is published in national and international publications such as Hemispheres, Brides, Woman’s Day, Mojo, Salon, Chicago Sun-Times, The Rough Guide Women Travel, MSN, and Allmusic.com.