.

Wyman Wades in the Blue

Former Stones bassist explores musical roots in new book, CD, documentary

October 31, 2001 12:00 AM ET

In Bill Wyman's Blues Odyssey: A Journey To Music's Heart & Soul, the former Rolling Stone bassist informs and entertains about the blues, armed with maps, photographs, song timelines, lyric slang definitions, and story after story. A spin-off double-CD and DVD is also in the works and a two-hour documentary airs on Bravo November 1-3.

"This project started with a radio series that never materialized," says Wyman, who planned to do thirteen half-hour specials on such greats as Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson and Howlin' Wolf. After wrapping the Howlin' Wolf pilot, Wyman was told the project should be a television special. Wyman then further expanded the project to include a book, teaming with writer Richard Havers to "sort through" the blues archives he'd accumulated over forty years, and the monumental research that followed.

"There was difficulty knowing what was the truth and what was hearsay and legend, but in the end I think we came close," Wyman says. For two years, he went through books, documents, his personal diaries, memories and recorded conversations of when he'd met or played with such important figures as Son House, John Lee Hooker and his favorite, "Mr. Howlin'," as Wyman sometimes refers to Howlin' Wolf.

He had also amassed another 800 vinyl blues albums and 600 CDs, and poured through all the liner notes, even though the credits weren't always accurate. He investigated birth names, dates and places for artists who had multiple identities. "John Lee Hooker recorded for different record labels under eight to ten different names," Wyman notes.

As well as the legends, the 400-page book covers artists who may only have recorded three sides. And there's a wonderful nod to "those low down dirty blues," naughty songs from the Twenties and Thirties, which would require a parental advisory sticker today. Lucille Bogen recorded a song called "Shave 'Em Dry," described in the book as "without a doubt the dirtiest song ever recorded." Wyman recites the lyric recently bleeped on Late Night With Conan O'Brien: "I've got nipples on my titties, as big as your thumb/I've got something between my legs to make a dead man cum."

"That's the cleanest verse," he half-jokes. "A lot of people think that the blues is a sad music, but the blues can be hilarious." Wyman's intention for Blues Odyssey was to parlay his genuine excitement for the blues within its pages. "I've got lots of blues books that are very boring, and they're great but a heavy read," he says. "You have to be a blues fanatic to get through them, and I wanted to make a book that was visual for everybody, with many different things in it."

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

prev
Music Main Next
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.

X

We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Road to Nowhere”

Talking Heads | 1985

A cappella harmonies give way to an a fuller arrangement blending pop and electro-disco on "Road to Nowhere," but the theme remains constant: We're on an eternal journey to an undefined destination. The song vaulted back into the news a quarter century after it was a hit when Gov. Charlie Crist used it in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida. "It's this little ditty about how there's no order and no plan and no scheme to life and death and it doesn't mean anything, but it's all right," Byrne said with a chuckle.

More Song Stories entries »
 
www.expandtheroom.com