ISBN-10: 0872866211
ISBN-13: 9780872866218
Publisher: City Lights Books
Publish Date: 06/10/2014
Dimensions: 8.98" L, 5.35" W, 0.85" H

Published by City Lights

Woman with Guitar: Memphis Minnie’s Blues (Revised, Expanded)

Foreword by: Jim O'Neal


Price: $30.00 $21.00


Universally recognized as one of the greatest blues artists, Memphis Minnie (1897-1973) wrote and recorded hundreds of songs. Blues people as diverse as Muddy Waters, Johnny Shines, Big Mama Thornton, and Chuck Berry have acknowledged her as a major influence. At a time when most female vocalists sang Tin Pan Alley material, Minnie wrote her own lyrics and accompanied her singing with virtuoso guitar playing. Thanks to her merciless imagination and dark humor, her songs rank among the most vigorous and challenging popular poetry in any language.

Woman with Guitar is the first full-length study of the life and work of this extraordinary free spirit, focusing on the lively interplay between Minnie’s evolving artistry and the African American community in which she lived and worked. Drawing on folklore, psychoanalysis, critical theory, women’s studies, and surrealism, the authors’ explorations of Minnie’s songs illuminate the poetics of popular culture as well as the largely hidden history of working-class women’s self-emancipation.

This revised and expanded edition includes a wealth of new biographical material, including photographs, record contracts, sheet music, and period advertisements, which further vivify this portrait of an African American musical legend. Complete, updated discography included.

Woman with Guitar is a fascinating, thorough and extremely valuable biography of one of American musical history’s most vibrant and pioneering artists. As the first woman singer/songwriter/ guitarist to ever reach stardom, the story of her life in music, on and off the stage, during one of the most important and formative periods of the origins of popular music, is an indelible, crucial window into that history.–Bonnie Raitt

Woman with Guitar has been, since it was first published in 1992 and now with this new revised and extended edition, still the only real definitive biography of Memphis Minnie, the most important female singer, songwriter and guitarist in the history of Delta blues.–Lucinda Williams

As a most ardent and devoted lifelong fan of Memphis Minnie and her music, I avidly devoured the original Woman with Guitar when it first came out in 1992. Now I am excited to be reading this new edition, and so grateful for it’s additional rare photos and carefully researched details, which shed even more light on this seminal, iconic, almost mythical musical pioneer, who was way ahead of her time, and whose soulful music and life so deeply inspired and influenced so many! A must read — whether you are already a Memphis Minnie fan, or just discovering her for the first time! — Maria Muldaur

An excellent book.–Bill Wyman

Woman with Guitar is not simply a carefully researched biography of Memphis Minnie, complied from the memories of her relatives, friends, and fellow performers; it is a vivid portrait of a talented singer and guitarist . . . The authors have added a new dimension to blues scholarship.–Paul Oliver, author of Blues Off the Record

Woman with Guitar is a delight. The book is both thorough and brilliant, a rare combination these days. . . . A fanatic interest in Minnie underpins and energizes this wonderful biography.–David Roediger, author of The Wages of Whiteness

Paul Garon is a co-founder of Living Blues magazine and author of The Devil’s Son-in-Law and Blues and the Poetic Spirit. Beth Garon is a painter and collagist. The Garons operate a rare-book business in Chicago, Illinois, and have been associated with the US surrealist movement for many years.


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One of the exciting things about the publication of this new edition is that it serves as a kind of touchstone for the current state of blues research and scholarship. And what becomes quickly apparent is that the digital has opened many new doors into the past, so that the Garons have been able to expland and enhance their portrait of Memphis Minnie through the inclusion of newly unearthed material ... [adding] a multifaceted and complex dimension to the reader's understanding of who this blues woman with guitar was and what her life and legacy have come to and will continue to represent–Robert H. Cataliotti

Masterly ... I doubt that this work could be improved upon and is heartily recommended.–Howard Rye, Blues & Rhythm

I'd worried that the redoubtable, unsinkable Memphis Minnie might fall apart under the flaying of the pages, as artists suffer through biographies too-literal, too-scholarly, or simply without enough imagination. I needn't have. The Garons' book, revised and expanded from an earlier edition, presents the artist in such a tantalizing manner than even if you haven't heard her sides, you'll run to your musical platform of choice, to sooth your ache ... She set standards for guitar playing, singing and phrasing still hard to beat; Led Zeppelin paid her the ultimate compliment of a ripoff. She lives in our ears, and on the page–thank the Garons for that."–Andrew Hamlin, OffBeat Magazine

As the Garons show again and again, Minnie's earthy appeal was broad. Her playing was, as described by poet Langston Hughes, like 'heartbeats mixed with iron and steel.' ... Woman with Guitar follows Minnie from rural Mississippi to Beale Street to Chicago and back to Memphis again, documenting the groundbreaking highs and the heartbreaking lows. It also digs deep into her discography, running down threads of protest and cultural commentary."–Chris Davis, Memphis Flyer

The idea behind any biography is to bring the subject into brighter light, illuminating their character, their strengths and faults as well as their impact on the world around them. The Garons and their contributors have certainly fulfilled that goal. This updated volume celebrates the legacy of the person many claim was the first lady of the blues. Blues fans should relish this opportunity to discover more about Memphis Minnie, a pivotal figure in blues history."–Mark Thompson, Blues Blast Magazine

Woman with Guitar showcases an intrepid performer who defied the odds, lived life on her own terms, and refused to accept the status quo, especially when it came to restrictions on women's agency. She refused to be submissive, meek, or quiet and was unafraid to make demands or get angry. Beth and Paul Garon celebrate Minnie's bold spirit and are to be credited for introducing her to a whole new generation of potential fans who will likely now hear her on YouTube. Furthermore, their work has raised a slew of questions about American Blues women, opening the door to additional research and exploration.–Eleanor J. Bader, Review Fix

The Garons' surrealist portrait of Minnie is a unique work of scholarship and an essential text toward understanding not only Minnie's world and work, but the blues itself. Quoting her lyrics and others in blues tradition, the authors consistently and convincingly deliver the idea that a blues narrative is often less critical to interpretation than its lines and metaphors ... An offering to anyone interested in better understanding the blues and aiding in its survival, the Garons' work has certainly made a difference in my own explorations, listenings and writings on blues.–Denise Sullivan, Blurt Magazine

If you buy only one book on the blues this year–this should be the one!–Frank Scott, Roots & Rhythm

Paul and Beth Garon write like fans, calling Memphis Minnie 'one of the most influential blues singers ever to record.' It sounds like the case-building biographers are wont to do–but they back their statement with a who's who of blues performers who acknowledge their point. The new edition of Woman with a Guitar fills in facts but the big picture is unchanged. Minnie was a rarity in the 1930s-'50s, a guitar-playing blueswoman whose original songs entered the repertoire of many performers. A touch of blues purist snobbery is indicated by the lack of mention of the best known Memphis Minnie cover, Led Zeppelin's 'When the Levee Breaks.'–David Luhrssen, Express Milwaukee

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ISBN-10: 0872866211
ISBN-13: 9780872866218
Publisher: City Lights Books
Publish Date: 06/10/2014
Dimensions: 8.98" L, 5.35" W, 0.85" H
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