Fathers and Sons: American Blues and British Rock Music, 1960-1970
Kellett, Andrew James
Herf, Jeffrey C
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This dissertation examines the unique cultural phenomenon of British blues-based rock music in the 1960s. It provides answers to two important questions of trans-Atlantic intellectual and cultural history. First, this dissertation will provide answers to two questions. First, it interrogates how and why African-American blues music became so popular amongst a segment of young, primarily middle-class men in Great Britain. It maps out "blues trade routes"--that is, the methods by which the music was transmitted to Britain. It explains the enthusiasm shown by young male Britishers largely in terms of their alienation from, and dissatisfaction with, mainstream British masculinity. Seen in this light, the "adoption" of African-American bluesmen as replacement "fathers" can be seen as an attempt to fill a perceived cultural need. This dissertation will also examine how these young British men, having formed bands to perform their own music, began in the mid-1960s to branch out from the blues. In a developing dialogue with like-minded bands from the United States, bands such as the Rolling Stones and Yardbirds started combining the lessons of the blues with other cultural influences such as jazz, classical music and English folk. The resulting cultural bricolage innovated popular music on both sides of the Atlantic from the 1970s onward. The dissertation draws on a variety of primary sources, including the popular music press, published interviews with key musicians, and, of course, the recorded music itself. Fathers and Sons uses the development of popular music to address issues that have traditionally been central to the study of ideas and cultures. These include: the role of interpersonal relationships in disseminating ideas and culture; the impact of distance and proximity in impelling cultural innovation; the occurrences of bursts of creativity in distinct places at distinct times; and the ways in which gender and sexual identity are performed and negotiated through mass consumer culture. These are salient issues with which intellectual and cultural historians have dealt for decades. Thus, Fathers and Sons seeks a broader audience than merely that which would be interested in American blues, British rock music, or both.