Heart of Lousiana: Dew Drop Blues

Updated: May. 19, 2020 at 9:45 PM CDT
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MANDEVILLE, La. (WVUE) - A lot of people credit the Mississippi Delta Region for giving birth to the Blues. But a Grammy-winning Louisiana Blues artist says that’s all wrong and he’s out to set history straight.

Blues musician Chris Thomas King is trying to rewrite the history of the music he has performed since he was a child. His message is that the Blues did not come from the Mississippi Delta.

“All we know is Robert Johnson sold his soul at the cross roads. All we know is these kinds of fairytales and things,” says King. “But, what I’ve done over the last few years is researched and kind of made sense if all those fairytales and misconceptions.”

King has written this song about the real birthplace of the Blues.

“Because our culture in Louisiana is so unique when Jelly Roll Morton called his music Jelly Roll Blues and was doing the Buddy Bolden Blues and all these kinds of things here, what he meant is Blue Entertainment that it was sensual that it broke the rules Victorian prudishness. It destroyed all of that and young people loved it for that.”

As King tries to stake Louisiana’s claim to the Blues, he’s been commissioned to write a book on his research.

“And it’s the first history of the Blues that’s ever been told by an African-American, which I’m not proud of that. I’m frustrated by it because when I was researching my book, I could not find books written by African-Americans about the Blues.”

This performance takes place in the Dew Drop Jazz Hall in Mandeville on the 125th Anniversary of the opening of this historic African-American social hall.

“They would come here, they would have a dance or some sort of a gathering and everything to raise a little money to put into the benevolent society,” says Lynn Mitchell.

The old building was donated to the City of Mandeville in the year 2000. Now, it hosts regular concerts.

You have a 125-year-old building about as bare bones as it gets and it’s tucked away in this booming suburban community. How does it survive?

“A lot of it was just the neighborhood looked after it. We’ve got a church next door. They’ve taken care of it. You know something needed to be done, they did it,” says Mitchell.

Social distancing brought an early end to the Dew Drops’s Spring concert series. But this night was all about the Blues.

“But what’s so special about this is the same stage, the same building. African-Americans in 1895 established this place and it was a social, a place for social gatherings and it’s still functioning that way,” says King.

It’s a history of a Louisiana art form that started not too far from here and over the last century has influenced music around the world.

Grammy-winning artist Chris Thomas King has a new album and he has posted excerpts from his upcoming book on the history of the Blues on his website.

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