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REALLY THE BLUES Mezz Mezzrow & Bernard Wolfe
"Really The Blues" is the story of a white kid who fell in love with black culture, learning to blow clarinet in the reform schools, brothels and honky-tonks of his youth. Drawn by the revelation of the blues, he followed the music along the jazz avenues of Chicago, New Orleans, and New York, and into the heart of America's soul. Told in the jive lingo of the underground's inner circle, this classic is an unforgettable chronicle of street life, smoky clubs, roadhouse dances, and reefer culture.
First published in 1946, Really the Blues was a rousing wake-up call to alienated young whites to explore black culture and the world of jazz, the first music America could call its own. Their spiritual godfather was Mezzrow, jazz cat, bootlegger, and peddler of the finest gauge in Harlem. Above all, Mezz championed the abandon available to those willing to lose their blues.
Citadel Underground's edition of Really the Blues features a new introduction by Barry Gifford, author of the novel Wild at Heart and co-author of Jack's Book: An Oral Biography of Jack's Kerouac.
"Really the Blues, read at the counter of the counter of the Columbia U Bookstore in mid-forties, was for me the first signal into white culture of the underground black, hip culture that preexisted before my own generation". -- Allen Ginsberg
"Milton Mezzrow was, is and shall always be the single most important figure in the history of marijuana in America. Like Leary, the Mezz turned on a new generation to a new drug... Mezzrow was 1) the first white Negro, 2) the Johnny Apleseed of weed, 3) the author of a great American autobiography, Really the Blues, the finest eyewitness account of American counterculture everpublished. The book is, likewise, the master-piece of the counterculture's most characteristics literary medium: the slang-laced, jazz-enrhythmed, long-breathed and rhapsodic street rap and rave-up". -- Albert Goldman
Really the Blues is the real life story about Mezz Mezzrow, the world-class clarinetist and seller of the best marijuana available on the East Coast, who plowed over the color line by adopting African-American culture and music as his own. Co-written with Bernard Wolfe, Mezz tells his story from his beginnings as a white Jewish kid growing up on the mean streets of Al Capone's Chicago idolizing Bessie Smith and authentic New Orleans jazz, to his triumphs at blazing the path for black and white musicians to perform jazz together during the Jim Crow 1930's and 40's, while overcoming his own demons and addictions. Soon after publication of "Really the Blues", Mezz moved to Europe where he frequently performed and was hugely venerated, living in Paris until his death in 1972.
Bernard Wolfe led one of the more extraordinary and colorful lives in 20th century American literature. Coming to age during the Depression, Wolfe left Yale to become a personal secretary and bodyguard to the exiled Leon Trotsky in Mexico, an experience that he wrote about years later in "The Great Prince Died" and "Trotsky Dead". Wolfe wrote well and prolifically in a variety of genres. Aside from the Trotsky books, his "Limbo" is considered to be one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, his "Memoirs of a Not Altogether Shy Pornographer" is a hilarious and true account of his recruitment by Henry Miller and Anais Nin to write erotica anonymously for cash during the Depression, his "The Late Risers", a brilliant Runyonesque novel about Times Square hustlers, and his seminal work "Really the Blues", the oral biography of Mezz Mezzrow (and co-author), the Jewish jazzman who lives the African-American experience, is an iconic book that has been cited as a major influence by such notables as Woody Allen, Keith Richards, Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan.
English language scans of "Really the Blues" as well as "The Great Prince Died", "Memoirs of a Not Altogether Shy Pornographer" and "The Late Risers" are available for your perusal.
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