A companion book to the groundbreaking PBS and BBC documentary series celebrates the pioneers and artists of American roots music--blues, gospel, folk, Cajun, Appalachian, Hawaiian, and Native American--without which there would be no jazz, rock, country, R & B, or hip hop today.
"American Epic, a historic music project ... explores the pivotal recording journeys at the height of the Roaring Twenties, when music scouts armed with cutting-edge portable recording technology captured the breadth of American music and made it available to the world. It was, in a very real way, the first time America truly heard herself. In the 1920s, as radio took over the pop music business, record companies were forced to leave their studios in major cities in search of new styles and markets. Ranging the mountains, prairies, rural villages, and urban ghettos of America, they discovered a wealth of unexpected talent. The recordings they made of the ethnic groups of America helped democratize the nation and gave a voice to all its people: a woman picking cotton in Mississippi, a coal miner in Virginia, or a tobacco farmer in Tennessee could have his or her thoughts and feelings heard on records played in living rooms across the country. These records blended the intertwining strands of Europe, Africa, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas and formed the bedrock for modern music as we know it. Today, virtually no documentation of these extraordinary events survives, and nearly 90 percent of the music masters have been destroyed. A vital part of American cultural history has been lost. Until now. Bernard MacMahon and Allison McGourty spent years traveling around the U.S. on a mission to rescue this history, interviewing hundreds of families and scouring attics and basements, collecting vintage film footage and hundreds of photographs that haven't been seen in nearly a century, all of which will reveal a new understanding of America to the world and future generations. Their fascinating account, written with the assistance of prize-winning author Elijah Wald, continues the journey of the series and features additional stories, exclusive never-before-seen photographs, and unearthed artwork. It also contains contributions from many of the musicians who participated, including Taj Mahal, Nas, Willie Nelson, and Steve Martin, plus a behind-the-scenes look at the incredible adventure across America in search of these recordings and eyewitness accounts. American Epic is an extraordinary testament to our country's musical roots, the transformation of our culture, and the artists who gave us modern popular music."--Jacket.