Robert Johnson is the subject of the most famous myth about the blues: he allegedly sold his soul at the crossroads in exchange for his incredible talent, and this deal led to his death at age 27. But the actual story of his life remains unknown save for a few inaccurate anecdotes. Up Jumped the Devil is the result of over 50 years of research. Gayle Dean Wardlow has been interviewing people who knew Robert Johnson since the early 1960s, and he was the person who discovered Johnson’s death certificate in 1967.

As a result, this book not only destroys every myth that ever surrounded Johnson, but also tells a human story … More

Following on from Giant Steps, comes the second instalment in Kenny Mathieson’s series of jazz histories. Cookin’ examines the birth and development of two of the key jazz styles of the post-war era, hard bop and its related offshoot, soul jazz. Hard bop was the most exciting jazz style of its day, and remains at the core of the modern jazz mainstream even now.

It drew on the twin poles of bebop and the blues for its foundation, spiced up with gospel, Latin and … More

Born OTD in 1933, Eunice Kathleen Waymon, AKA Nina Simone. Simone was an American singer, songwriter, musician, arranger, and civil rights activist. Her music spanned a broad range of musical styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B and gospel. ‘From her raging, handwritten letters to late-night phone calls with David Bowie, this biography gets up close and personal with the tempestuous Nina Simone’

Drawing on glimpses into previously unseen diaries, rare interviews and childhood journals, and with the aid of her daughter, What … More

“I’ve been told that no one sings the word ‘hunger’ like I do. Or the word ‘love’.”Lady Sings the Blues is the inimitable autobiography of one of the greatest icons of the twentieth century. Born to a single mother in 1915 Baltimore, Billie Holiday had her first run-in with the law at aged 13. But Billie Holiday is no victim. Her memoir tells the story of her life spent in jazz, smoky Harlem clubs and packed-out concert halls, her love affairs, her wildly creative friends, her struggles with addiction and her adventures in love. Billie Holiday is a wise and aphoristic guide to the story of her unforgettable life.

Available in store and online.

Sister Suzie hails from Northumberland’s wild and rural northern border, but has been bringing her natural down-home charm, undiluted, to southern climes of England for the last few years. Her love of rockin’ music was kicked off when aunty Freda turned her on to Elvis at a young age. Suzie’s full-on attachment to the sounds from the other side of the tracks came from her meeting a certain Dale Robinson, a home town man who played her some sides by Rufus Thomas. This would lead to her enthusiastically seeking the records of Memphis Minnie, Big Mama Thornton, Little Walter, Jimmy Reed, Robert Johnson, Rufus Thomas, Leadbelly and Elmore James. Quickly her biggest idol became New Orleans Soul Queen, Irma Thomas. This may have had more than a little to do with Suzie packing her bags and travelling to the Crescent City – where she has returned more than once since – and blowing her life savings. One thing Suzie has little of is regrets!

Vinyl LP available in store and online.

The Legacy of the Blues : A Glimpse into the Art and the Lives of Twelve Great Bluesmen. Samuel Charters is a musicographer, novelist, poet, and producer of jazz and blues records who for many years has also been seriously interested in every aspect of black music. His book, The Country Blues, was the first to be published on the subject.

He began making field recordings in the South in the early 1950s and has subsequently produced many recordings, both of … More

Born OTD in 1949, American soul and jazz poet, musician, & spoken-word performer, Gil Scott-Heron. This is a story about talented but tortured souls and a fractured father & son relationship that kept apart Gillie Heron, who was once hailed by ’50k supporters..as the greatest thing seen at Celtic Park since goalposts arrived’. And Gil Scott-Heron, who a newspaper in 1975 said was ‘one of the most interesting new leaders of the black cause today’.

Available in store and online.