On Highway 61

In his new On Highway 61: Music, Race, and the Evolution of Freedom, renowned historian Dennis McNally (Desolate Angel, What a Long Strange Trip) celebrates the work of such rock and blues forefathers (and -mothers) as Robert Johnson, Lead Belly and Ma Rainey—linking the rich history (the struggles and the achievements) of African-American musicians of the past to the present. Highway 61 actually goes all the way back to the mid-1800s, beginning with a celebration of author/social critic Henry David Thoreau before moving through a lengthy history of black American music from early minstrels to Muddy Waters. And the book culminates with a deep study of the early years of Bob Dylan, “The man who brought it all home” and whose music embraced the works of the musical elders whose music and ideas traveled Highway 61, aka the “Blues Highway.” But the book’s best qualities are McNally’s ability as a storyteller combined with his exhaustive scholarly research on the country’s rich African-American musical history and the response of the white audiences along the road.

Dennis McNally will appear in Chico Monday, Nov. 3, first on Blues Bayou on KZFR 90.1 FM, at noon, then for a book-signing at The Bookstore, at 6:30 p.m.