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PETE DANIELS

THE LEGEND OF BOOKER'S GUITAR (paperback book)

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PD Books (BK080)

A relatively short (184 pages) and unusual biography that incorporates not just the eventful musical and non-musical life of Booker White (or, if you prefer, Bukka White), but also that of his favoured guitar, known as Hard Rock.

This guitar was gifted by Booker late in life to Keith Perry, a British fan and photographer friend who set about restoring it to former glories, and it is with Keith and Hard Rock that the latter part of the book progresses, right up to 2010 with the guitar being played by Eric Bibb on a track on his hit album, Booker's Guitar.

The story starts in Chickasaw County, Mississippi in the early years of the twentieth century with the birth of Booker. It proceeds to trace his early interest in music, his learning the guitar and his early recordings and brief success in 1930 prior to the onset of the Great Depression. If the economic downturn  served to limit on-going recording opportunities, his two year stint in Parchman Farm Penitentiary toward the end of the 1930s (following a shooting incident) didn’t help much either. On release from Parchman, Booker continued to play and develop strong relationships and friendships with other blues musicians in Chicago (notably Big Joe Williams and Big Bill Broonzy) but his musical career fell away in the 1940s, not to re-surface until his rediscovery in the early 1960s.

It was in the 1960s that Booker befriended Keith Perry after being introduced in Newcastle in 1967 by Brownie McGhee, becoming sufficiently close for Booker to gift Hard Rock to his guitar enthusiast friend toward the end of his career and life.

Ultimately repaired and brought back to life by Red Lick favourite, Steve Phillips, the book lovingly presents not just the subsequent story of Hard Rock up to the point of engaging Eric Bibb’s interest, but also houses many photos taken by Keith of other guitar legends in its privileged company - including B/B. King (Booker’s nephew), Mark Knopfler, Lonnie Donegan, Derek Trucks, Bob Brozman, Bill Wyman and more.

Well written, thoroughly engaging and highly informative, this may not be a conventional biography of a major bluesman but its is certainly a hugely enjoyable one.

Review Date: June 2015

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