The Association for Recorded Sound Collections selected this book as a finalist for its 2011 Award for Excellence in Historical Sound Research in the blues/gospel/hip-hop/R&B.

The Association for Recorded Sound Collections was founded in 1961 to preserve and promote the value of recorded sound archives.

Amazon Reviews

European Journal of American Studies


Roger House, Blue Smoke
European Journal of American Studies

November 3, 2011
Christian O'Connell
University of Gloucestershire

By drawing attention to Broonzy's important role in the development of an urban blues sound during the 1930s, and the relevance of this music to a modern and urban black audience, House challenges both the popular vision of Broonzy as the archetypal country blues singer and the stereotyped idea of the bluesman, images favored and idealized by white audiences in the post-war era. . . .
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The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy
November 15, 2010
Bill Gardner, Host of Rhapsody In Black,
Public Radio Los Angeles, CA

Big Bill Broozy comes alive in this in depth depiction of his world in the Twenties, thirties and forties. Blue smoke covers the career of Big Bill from his humble beginnings in Mississippi to his becoming a big time blues singer.

What makes this book so special is that it chronicles the great black migration from the deep south to Chicago, in the first half of the twentieth century.

I couldn't put the book down once I started reading it.

*****, 5.0 out of 5 stars
A Musical Journey
December 3, 2010
Rebecca L., (Watertown, MA)

Blue Smoke will take you on a Blues journey from Mississippi and Arkansas to Chicago and Europe with Big Bill Broonzy who influenced several musicians, struggled with racism, released several recordings, and became a blues ambassador. The book weaves the historical narratives of a working class black man with his musical lyrics. With intense research, skillful writing, and personal passion, Roger House illustrates the songster traditions, Chicago's South Side, and the rent-party circuit. This is a great read that gets to the roots of music in America. Don't miss it!

*****, 5.0 out of 5 stars
A Musical Journey,
December 3, 2010 
Mark L., (Boston, MA United States)   

I ordered this book expecting to learn about Big Bill Broonzy. But I got a lot more than that. The author uses Broonzy & his life story to tell a much larger story: a history of African-American in the first half of the 20th Century, from sharecropping to the Great Migration to the Sixties.

Broonzy emerges as this book as the representative voice of ordinary people. This is a wonderful book, and don't be scared off because it is published by a university press. The author is an excellent writer and really keep the story moving.

Anyone who is interested in music, in the blues and in American history ought to read this book -- and buy a couple of Big Bill CDs while they're at it. That's what I did, and it reallt made the book come more alive for me.


Amazon, 5.0 out of 5 stars
Economical In Style, Broad In Scope
February 10, 2011
By E. A. Montgomery

Blue Smoke is such an entertaining read that it would be easy to overlook the scholarship behind it. In using Broonzy's career to tell a larger story about African American lives Roger House refrains from padding the book with information designed to show off his research. Instead he writes as economically as Broonzy sang. I love everything about Blue Smoke. The layout is lovely, the photographs well chosen, the discography a welcome addition and the content as enjoyable as it was informative.

Starting with Broonzy's parents and interspersing details about African American life into the Broonzy family story, House shines a light on economic opportunities, the migration, racism in blues music and (of course) music as a method of detailing social conditions. Using Broonzy's recordings to tell the story of so many could easily have come off as contrived or forced, but Roger House makes it seem the most logical and straightforward way to address the subject. Working with Broonzy's dual careers (the white expectation for blues music required it's own type of minstrel show while the black audiences appreciated Broonzy's more contemporary work) the author combines all into something greater than I expected.

While Blue Smoke does address the story of lives in America under Jim Crow, it is also an excellent biography of the artist. I gained a greater appreciation for Broonzy's work in Europe as well as becoming familiar with work I'd overlooked in his discography. A great book and one I absolutely recommend.