A critical look at the controversial strategies officials and promoters wield to "sell" the blues.
In I'm Feeling the Blues Right Now: Blues Tourism and the Mississippi Delta, Stephen A. King reveals the strategies used by blues promoters and organizers in Mississippi, both African American and white, local and state, to attract the attention of tourists. In the process, he reveals how promotional materials portray the Delta's blues culture and its musicians. Those involved in selling the blues in Mississippi work to promote the music while often conveniently forgetting the state's historical record of racial and economic injustice. King's research includes numerous interviews with blues musicians and promoters, chambers of commerce, local and regional tourism entities, and members of the Mississippi Blues Commission.
This book is the first critical account of Mississippi's blues tourism industry. From the late 1970s until 2000, Mississippi's blues tourism industry was fragmented, decentralized, and localized, as each community competed for tourist dollars. By 2004, with the creation of the Mississippi Blues Commission, the promotion of the blues became more centralized as state government played an increasing role in promoting Mississippi's blues heritage. Blues tourism has the potential to generate new revenue in one of the poorest states in the country, repair the state's public image, and serve as a vehicle for racial reconciliation.
Stephen A King —
Stephen A. King, Cleveland, Mississippi, is professor and coordinator of communication studies and theater arts at Delta State University.
King, Stephen A. I'm feeling the blues right now: blues tourism and the Mississippi Delta. University Press of Mississippi, 2011. 277p bibl discography index afp; ISBN 9781617030109; ISBN 9781617030116 e-book. Reviewed in 2012may CHOICE.
Observing that blues tourism is "a bizarre oxymoron," King (communication and theater arts, Delta State Univ.) makes some groundbreaking observations in this original and extensive study. His analysis centers on three aspects of Mississippi blues: "myths," "authenticity," and "public memory." He deconstructs each, applying his in-depth research on both blues musicians (past and present) and tourism. In assessing the intersection of blues and tourism, he notes the revisionist history that entrepreneurs have attached to particular blues tourism sights. The irony of blues tourism is particularly apparent in conjunction with the successful Shack Up Inn, located in the northwest corner of the state, where, King observes "sharecropper shacks, once a depressing image of poverty, are now the featured attraction on a plantation that resembles a blues fantasyland." No one seems to object to this, since the locale is a tourist destination with a racially diverse clientele. Blues tourism commissioners have sanitized the lynching, segregation, and disenfranchisement of those who originated the blues, which begs the question: is blues tourism a modern form of sharecropping? The ultimate irony of Mississippi's quest to capitalize on its unsung history is the uncertain profitability of blues tourism.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. -- T. Emery, Austin Peay State University