Patrick Joseph O’Connor wrote a book  about Wichita Blues!

This book began as a public history project for the Kansas African American Museum in 1997. The project garnered three grants and resulted in 36 hours of recorded interviews and 19 portrait photographs of African American musicians who performed from the 1930s through the 1960s in Wichita. The result was a permanent recurring exhibit for the Museum, as well as a Kansas Interpretive Traveling Exhibit.

As music is a large part of Black culture and also a bridge to majority culture through the appreciation of song, this study became a vehicle with which to document the integrative forces of blues during the 1950s-1960s. Another goal was to delineate the story of blues in Wichita, and to determine whether the city had a distinct style or a melding of regional styles. These musicians, in their sixties and seventies, gave their thoughts and feelings in audio and visual format.

Dr. David Evans, Professor Emeritus Musicology at University of Memphis and noted blues scholar, wrote the foreword for the book.

Wichita Blues is 288 pages long with 30-plus photos in black and white. Most of the photographs have never been published. It reveals the power of blues over the decades in a small city where performing it live was the only reward.

The research using primary sources was gratifying. How many wished they could talk to Son House, Robert Johnson, or Skip James? Through another grant from the Kansas Historical Society, I “apprenticed” myself to Harmonica Chuck in the Master Artist program, recording 18 performances throughout Wichita which went to the Society’s archives. This was a rewarding experience—particularly performing on keyboard with Chuck and his band. We got into soul music from the 1960s! The main value of my collecting from these 19 musicians was the fact of being accepted by them and learning of the African American music culture.

Photo by Johanna Hutmacher

More info from University Press of Mississippi:



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