The British ‘Bluesman’ Paul Oliver and the Nature of Transatlantic Blues Scholarship

O'Connell, Christian ORCID: 0000-0001-5546-8389 (2013) The British ‘Bluesman’ Paul Oliver and the Nature of Transatlantic Blues Scholarship. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

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Recent revisionist studies have argued that much of what is known about music known as the blues’ has been 'invented' by the writing of enthusiasts far removed from the African American culture that created the music. Elijah Wald and Marybeth Hamilton in particular have attempted to sift through the clouds of romanticism, and tried to unveil more empirical histories that were previously obscured by the fallacious genre distinctions conjured up during the 1960s blues revival. While this revisionist scholarship has shed light on some previously ignored historical facts, writers have tended to concentrate on the romanticism of blues writing strictly from an American perspective, failing to acknowledge the genesis and influence of transatlantic scholarship, and therefore ignoring the work of the most prolific and influential blues scholar of the twentieth century, British writer Paul Oliver. By examining the core of Oliver’s research and writing during the 1950s and 1960s, this study aims to place Oliver in his rightful place at the centre of blues historiography. His scholarship allows a more detailed appreciation of the manner in which the blues was studied, through lyrics, recordings, oral histories, photography and African American literature. These historical sources were interpreted in accordance with the author’s attitudes to the commercial popular music, which allowed the ‘reconstruction’ of an African American ‘folk’ culture in which the blues became the antithesis of pop. Importantly, this study seeks to transcend dominant discourses of national cultural ownership or ethnocentrism, and demonstrate that representations of African American music and culture were constructed within a transatlantic context. The blues is music with roots in the African American experience within the United States; however, as Paul Oliver’s writing shows, its reception and representation were not limited by the same national, cultural or racial boundaries.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Additional Information: Short extracts from song lyrics included on the basis of 'illustration for instruction'. Illustrations and figures reproduced with copyright holder's permission.
Uncontrolled Keywords: African American music; Blues (music); Popular music; Paul Oliver, blues musician; British blues history; Blues (music), social history;
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
E History America > E151 United States (General)
M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creative Arts
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 11 Dec 2014 11:12
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:56

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