By the time he died in 1959, Blind Willie McTell was almost forgotten. He had never had a hit record, and his days of playing on street corners for spare change were long gone. But this masterful guitarist and exquisite singer has since become one of the most loved musicians of the prewar period, spurring Bob Dylan to write, “Nobody can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell.” Now this richly evocative and wide-ranging biography illuminates for the first time the world of this elusive and fascinating figure, a blind man who made light of his disability and a performer who exploded every stereotype about blues musicians.
Traveling the back roads of Georgia, interviewing relatives and acquaintances, and digging up fascinating archival material, author Michael Gray weaves together his discoveries to reveal an articulate and resourceful musician with a modest career but a mile-wide independent streak. Whether selling high-quality homemade bootleg whisky out of a suitcase, bragging about crowds of women chasing him, or suffering a stroke while eating barbecue under a tree, McTell emerges from this book a cheerful, outgoing, engaging individualist with seemingly limitless self-confidence.
This moving odyssey into a lost world of black music and white power is also an unprecedented portrait of the culture, language, and landscape of the deep South--the violence, the leisurely pace of life--and of the blues preservationists who ventured into its heart. A long, thoughtful stare into the world of Blind Willie McTell, Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes is sure to find a place among the classics of American music history.