All posts by Zeb Larson

Zeb Larson is a history graduate student, music collector and general student of the human experience. He is interested in tracing how we got from where we were to where we are now and understanding how all of these come together.
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Forgotten Gems & Dusty Classics: The Nickname Edition – Lead Belly, Bukka White, Doc Watson, Jelly Roll Morton, Hot Lips Page

Musicians tend to attract quirky nicknames, and more than a few of them stick for life. Louis Armstrong was Satchmo, Coleman Hawkins was Bean, Charlie Parker was Bird, and Lester Young was known as Prez or Tickle Toe. Sometimes they take over an artist’s identity. When Furry Lewis was asked in the 1970s how he...Read...
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Blues Music: Marketing Nostalgia Using “Race Records” in the 1920s & 1930s

Folklorists like to romanticize blues music as being a pure expression of culture, but recorded blues music was carefully marketed to its intended audience from its very beginning. As early as the 1920s, music aimed at African-Americans was labeled as "race music", and the best way to advertise it was in the pages of African-American...
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Forgotten Gems & Dusty Classics: Blind Bluesmen – Willie Johnson, Willie McTel, Willie Reynolds, Gary Davis, Snooks Eaglin

The “blind bluesman” is perhaps the dominant image of the genre, and one that evokes a number of associations. As noted by scholar Joesph Witek, the idea of the “blind genius” dates at least as far back as Homer. Given that many of these musicians were extraordinarily talented, their blindness might have fed popular interest...Read...
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Cathedral Park Jazz Festival – The Blue Cranes, Battle Hymns & Gardens, Free Jazz Improv Live Show Review

I must confess, with some embarrassment, that this year was the first time attending the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival, and this has been much to my regret. The festival is held in the St. Johns neighborhood of Portland underneath the St. Johns Bridge and is the longest-running free jazz festival on the West Coast. “Free”...Read...