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David Evans: A Well-Kept Secret

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Once upon a time in the ‘60s in the Beantown area there lived a couple of guys who were both bookish and musically inclined. Sometimes they played together and sometimes they studied together and sometimes they shot the shit together. One went on to become a founding member of probably the most recognized blues band in the world, while the other went on to become the preeminent blues scholar alive today. If Canned Heat wasn’t the most recognized blues band in the world in its day, I don’t know who would fill the top spot. And if Doctor David Huhn Evans, Jr., isn’t the preeminent blues scholar of today, then s/he hasn’t been born yet.

This is the first in a series of articles on David Evans. The man has such a lengthy and forceful curriculum vitae that he can’t be done justice without at least several articles. His plaudits are many, his papers are many, his teaching credentials are impeccable, his musical credits are many, he’s a Grammy winner, and on and on.

Even though I’ve known him for a few years, and I’ve known of him longer, I wasn’t aware until a short time ago the length and breadth of his achievements. If two people each took credit for half his achievements they’d still rank in the top three blues scholars in the world.

It’s truly amazing how a person who’s so heavily involved in a certain field of endeavor can be so relatively unknown to the majority of its followers. He’s a well-kept secret. For instance, in the field of country blues, how many people would readily recognize the name of Doctor David H Evans? Yet here’s a man whose curriculum vitae runs to 34 pages, all pertaining to country blues. (On a related note, why doesn’t Blogcritics allow the words “country blues” to be capitalized, to not be a field of its own? It’s one of the most studied genres of American music, as well as one of the most emulated and played.)

Evans has appeared in many parts of the world as a performer, as a speaker, as part of a panel, as a college professor, and many other roles. Some of these appearances were as a blues scholar, others as an erudite speaker, and still others playing some of the downhome blues that sprang up in the Mississippi Delta early in the 20th century.

This article is the first in a series of articles in the works, all of which will be about David Evans: his scholarly side, his writing side, his performing side, and his academic side. The series will not be strictly in chronological order, nor will it be by category. There will be crossover, by design, with the goal of painting a fairly complete picture of the man. When a person lives his life, he doesn’t live it by category, but by chronology. Bearing that in mind, I’ll attempt to keep it roughly chronological, but no promises. And there is no particular schedule in my publishing, so your tolerance and patience are appreciated.

Evans has allowed me rare access to his professional life, and I hope I can do justice, to the man, to his followers and to the readers of these articles. To the man, by giving a readable and detailed account of his achievements. To followers and readers, by offering insight into an interesting and remarkable man.

The next article in this series will appear soon. Meanwhile, I invite you all to check Evans’s MySpace bio, which gives a nice, short summary of the man. Then search him out on YouTube and MySpace and get an idea of what’s coming up about the man.

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About Lou Novacheck

  • Now as for the matter of “country blues”: I used to utilize this phrase, but found that novices were often confused by it. Those not familiar with the genre often thought I was referring to a hybrid of blues and country music. Hence, I’ve begun using terms like “early blues”, “rural blues”, “prewar blues” (which requires its own explanation, pre-World War 2) or “primitive blues”, which might be seen as derogatory and is therefore not always a good choice.

    In any event … yes, I know what you mean. I’m glad to see coverage of this music in any event.

  • Thanks for this beautiful article on Dr. David Evans! He is a hero of mine, and was very gracious in assisting me with interviews and photos for my book, Blind Owl Blues. It’s the only existing book-length bio of Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, David’s old musical partner who you’ve mentioned above. If you’d like to check it out, it’s available at my site.

    I always recommend David’s book, “Big Road Blues”, to anyone who’s interested in learning about folk blues and the traditional creative process. He’s published other great materials as well, and of course his music is fabulous too. It’s nice to see a tribute to this brilliant scholar. Looking forward to your next articles.

  • Lou Novacheck

    I’m aware of that. The comment was meant to be seen as facetious.

  • “On a related note, why doesn’t Blogcritics allow the words “country blues” to be capitalized”

    What are you talking about? Music genres aren’t capitalized. Feel free to check the link to wikipedia in your article