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Episode 121 : Peter Guralnick on Blues + Southern Soul + Jerry Wexler

21 February 2022

In this episode we invite the great Peter Guralnick — Zooming in from his native Massachusetts — to discuss his "adventures in music and writing"… to quote the subtitle of his wonderful 2020 collection Looking to Get Lost.

Peter takes his hosts back to his discovery of Delta blues giants Skip James and Robert Johnson in the early '60s — and to the first pieces he wrote for Paul Williams' Crawdaddy! in 1966. He explains his approach to the masterful profiles he collected in Feel Like Going Home and Lost Highway, and the friendships with Charlie Rich and Bobby "Blue" Bland that resulted from them. Conversation leads from Howlin' Wolf to Solomon Burke and southern soul, and from there to the use of Val Wilmer's remarkable photos in Peter's books.

Talk of Memphis and Muscle Shoals prompts Mark to introduce the first of three clips from Barney's 1985 audio interview with Atlantic Records legend Jerry Wexler. Peter reminisces about his relationship with "Wex" (and with Ray Charles), then follows up with riveting recall of Joe Tex and Jerry Lee Lewis. Pieces by Memphis writer Andria Lisle — one of many Guralnick disciples — brings us on to discussion of Bobby Bland and the late Hi Rhythm section drummer Howard Grimes. We also remember the brilliant Betty Davis and Syl ('Is It Because I'm Black?') Johnson.

Finally, Mark quotes from newly-added library pieces about John Lee Hooker, Nik Venet, the Nazz and Simon Napier-Bell, while Jasper notes articles about Norah Jones and Robert Glasper. Bringing things full circle, Barney quotes from Peter's friend Bill Millar's tribute to recently-deceased soul specialist Bob Fisher.

Watch a video clip from this recording.

Many thanks to special guest Peter Guralnick. Looking to Get Lost is published by Little, Brown, and you can visit his website at peterguralnick.com.