Five years ago I built a website about blues music in the lower Chattahoochee Valley for the online journal Southern Spaces. Here’s some of what I wrote in the intro:
The Lower Chattahoochee River Valley region has one of the richest traditions of blues music in America; but, apart from long-time residents of the region and a handful of blues aficionados, the blues legacy of the Lower Chattahoochee Valley is largely ignored. The region — defined here as the eighteen counties that hug the Chattahoochee River along the Georgia/Alabama border, along with three additional counties in Georgia that have traditionally been a hotbed for blues music — doesn’t have a revered blues reputation like the Mississippi Delta. That’s probably due to the fact that virtually no 78’s of country blues emerged from the Lower Chattahoochee Valley from the twenties through the forties and only a small number of Lower Chattahoochee blues 45’s, LP’s, and CD’s have been issued since the fifties.
One person has been largely responsible for documenting the rich blues tradition of the Lower Chattahoochee Valley: George Mitchell. From the late sixties through the eighties, Mitchell recorded dozens of nonprofessional blues artists, many of whom were old enough to have recorded before World War II. More than just an amazing portrait of talent and creativity, Mitchell’s recordings demonstrate that the region has developed a unique blues sound.
For my project, I interviewed George and taped performances by some of the region’s blues artists (Thanks to Jason Hibberd for production assistance).
I’ve assembled a couple video highlights from the project. Here is Precious Bryant playing the instrumental “Georgia Buck” at a club in Columbus:
And here is Precious playing the great Memphis Minnie tune “My Chaffeur” in her front yard:
George Mitchell discusses the unique sound of Lower Chattahoochee blues:
George Daniel delivers a raw performance of “Smokestack Lightning” in his front yard: