This remarkable book recovers three invaluable perspectives, long thought to have been lost, on the culture and music of the Mississippi Delta.
In 1941 and ’42 African American schol-ars from Fisk University—among them the noted composer and musicologist John W. Work III, sociologist Lewis Wade Jones, and graduate student Samuel C. Adams Jr.—joined folklorist Alan Lomax of the Library of Congress on research trips to Coahoma County, Mississippi. Their mission was “to document adequately the cultural and social backgrounds for music in the community.” Among the fruits of the project were the earliest recordings by the legendary blues singer and guitarist Muddy Waters.
The hallmark of the study was to have been a joint publication of its findings by Fisk and the Library of Congress. While this publication was never completed, Lost Delta Found is composed of the writings, interviews, notes, and musical transcriptions produced by Work, Jones, and Adams in the Coahoma County study. Their work captures, with compelling immediacy, a place, a people, a way of life, and a set of rich musical traditions as they existed in the 1940s.
Illustrated with photos and more than 160 musical transcriptions.
"Lost Delta Found: Rediscovering the Fisk University–Library of Congress Coahoma County Study, 1941–1942 presents a unique and valuable perspective on the pioneering Coahoma County study that also was recounted in Alan Lomax's Land Where the Blues Began, a prior Classics of Blues Literature honoree. Written by African American scholars from Fisk University, Lost Delta Found documents their crucial but often overlooked work on the project."
—The Blues Foundation's Blues Hall of Fame induction announcement, 2019
"Restores credit for the definitive Delta-blues research to the men who conducted it."
"Splendid and significant . . . Work was instrumental in uncovering and giving the work of bluesmen Muddy Waters, Son House, Son Sims, and Willie Brown to the world; every library that owns [Alan Lomax's book The Land Where the Blues Began] should own this one, too. An essential purchase for music collections."
"This may well be the greatest unpublished goldmine of early research into the music of black Mississippians, and its appearance is a boon not only to music scholars but to anyone interested in Southern life in a period of intense change and musical expression."
"These original documents . . . paint a compellingly accurate portrait of the Mississippi Delta in the 1940s. . . . Work, Jones, and Adams are finally getting their due at a time when Mississippi seems consumed with righting its past wrongs."
"Gordon and Nemerov have rescued from oblivion an important study of black life in rural Mississippi. . . . Work's 160 song transcriptions of 1941–1942 field recordings form the 100-page centerpiece of this book, and equally illuminating are insightful essays by the Fisk trio on plantation folklore and traditions, already fading at that time as urban influences permeated the Mississippi Delta."