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Illustrator William Stout Draws 100 Blues Legends

Friday, May 24, 2013

Louis Jordan, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues' Louis Jordan, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues' (Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts)

In 1980, the cartoonist R. Crumb released Heroes of the Blues, a set of beautiful, illustrated trading cards that catalogs 36 of the greatest bluesmen ever. Now, a new book by writer and illustrator William Stout, Legends of the Blues, pays tribute to Crumb with drawings of even more heroes. Stout, who researched the book meticulously, included drawings and one page biographies of artists like Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, and Sonny Boy Williamson — some of his favorite musicians. "It's just the greatest music ever produced," Stout says. "And it's completely American."

See what else Stout has to say about the blues in the slideshow below.

Blind Willie Johnson, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'
Courtesy Abrams ComicArts
Robert Johnson, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'

"I wanted to go deeper than just representing a photograph that I found. I wanted the portraits to tell something about each artist. So there are visual references to either their music or their life. In the case of Robert Johnson, his very short life, with the skulls in his eyes."

Blind Willie Johnson, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'
Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts
Blind Willie Johnson, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'

"He recorded the song ‘Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground,’ which is one of the songs that’s on the Voyager spacecraft. They have 27 samples of music. It was chosen as an expression of human loneliness. Ry Cooder, the great guitarist, described this song as the most soulful and transcendent piece in all American music." 

 

Skip James, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'
Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts
Skip James, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'

“I love Skip James’s music. His singing [and] his playing [are] so elegant.”

Willie Dixon, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'
Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts
Willie Dixon, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'

"Willie Dixon is the author of the Great American Blues Songbook…. Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson — almost all of their hits are written by Willie Dixon.”

Sonny Boy Williamson II, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'
Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts
Sonny Boy Williamson II, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'

“I bought the [Sonny Boy Williamson and The Yardbirds] album, took it home, put it on my cheap little record player. The music that poured out of my speakers — it felt like: 'This is the music that’s been waiting for you all your life.'” 

Howlin' Wolf, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'
Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts
Howlin' Wolf, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'

“[This illustration] is a little indication of the sort of hoodoo character that Wolf created around himself — the bigger than life Howlin’ Wolf. It’s an indication of the spookiness of some of his music.”

Louis Jordan, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'
Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts
Louis Jordan, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'

“He was the hardest biography to write because my first draft for him was 8 pages long, and I couldn’t figure out how to cut it down. He is the most accomplished entertainer in the entire book…. The top black recording artist of all time in terms of weeks at Number 1.”

Guests:

William Stout

Comments [2]

Soundcheck producer Joel Meyer

A clarification: At the beginning of the audio version of this segment, we state that illustrator R. Crumb issued a set of trading cards called “Heroes of the Blues” in 1995. Those cards were collected in a book published in 1995, but Crumb originally issued the cards in 1980. We’ve updated our text above.

May. 28 2013 12:55 PM
gina ballinger from graz, austia

yeah and thank you! huge smile hearing and seeing william stouts book. a chouinard student once upon a time, too : )

May. 25 2013 05:51 AM

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