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The Blues: A Photographic Tribute

Ray Jeanotte

ISBN: 978-1-908836-77-9

Page Count: 58

Publication Date: Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cover Artwork: BB King photographed by Ray Jeanotte in The Netherlands in 1986

Click to play audio Ray Jeanotte plays the blues with his brother Larr... play
Click to play audio Ray & Larry Jeanotte play the blues. Recorded in 1... play
Click to play audio Ray & Larry Jeanotte play the blues. Recorded in 1... play
Click to play audio Ray & Larry Jeanotte play the blues. Recorded in 1... play

About this Book

Featuring 40 stunning black and white photographs (and the photographer's own personal anecdotes) of blues artists BB King, Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown, Luther Allison, Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy, Melvin Taylor, Robert Lockwood, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Queen Ida, Charlie Baty, Precious Bryant, William Clarke, Albert Collins, Anson Funderburgh, Duke Robillard, Earl King, Joe Louis Walker, Katie Webster, Lou Ann Barton, Sam Myers, Roebuck ‘Pop’ Staples, Tinsley Ellis, Danny Gatton, John Hammond, Lil’ Ed Williams, Ray Charles, Roy Rogers, Otis Rush, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Buddy Guy, and a mystery musician!  

If you have ever been to a cool blues club, like Buddy Guy’s in Chicago, then you got a history lesson: the old tube amps and guitars. Hell, just breathing the air in there makes you wiser. Ray Jeanotte’s photography is like that. He has witnessed an extraordinary number of blues performances, and photographed so many of the greats that it makes your head spin. These photographs are filled with jaw-droppingly beautiful guitars and faces that will cure your own blues (including a mystery face!) because what you see in the face of a performing blues man or blues woman is that of a fellow brother or sister letting go of the pain. Mr. Jeanotte captures that moment the way a National Geographic photographer captures the wing of a hummingbird. And he has a story for each one. 
Marck L. Beggs
poet, singer-songwriter

Truth is, blues is a kind of bloodletting—opening a vein to relieve and revive the body as it pours from the stage, stoop or alley. Like the Negro spiritual, its historic genesis is absolutely immutable: the institution of slavery and Jim Crow. And this is precisely why it has always needed to be a music of versatility, the plainspoken chronicler of lamentation and ecstasy, a universal music without pretense.
    Ray Jeanotte, who has lived with this music for decades, honors it in his every image and engrossing commentary. This music and these noted performers have shaped his life.
    Immediate, disarmingly warm and urgent, The Blues: A Photographic Tribute is his love letter to this music, some of its most remarkable performers, and, thankfully, the rest of us.
Kevin Simmonds
poet & composer

Author Biography

Ray Jeanotte was born in Jersey City, New Jersey on November 14th, 1943. At an early age, he taught himself to play the guitar and later played in various clubs around New York City. In the early 1970s, he studied photography at the prestigious School of Visual Arts. He spent twenty years in Europe working as a freelance photographer and musician. He moved back to the States with his family in 1989.  

As a young photographer in the late 1960s, Ray worked with many famous photographers in the vibrant New York scene. His work has appeared in a variety of publications including Can-Am: Photo History by Pete Lyons, Time and Two Seats by János Wimpffen of Motorsport Research Group and Mark Donohue’s book The Unfair Advantage. One of his favourite commissions was providing the artwork for Ray Bradbury’s I Live by the Invisible: New & Selected Poems (Salmon Poetry, 2002). Before he retired, Ray taught portrait lighting workshops in the Washington State area.  Ray died on the 7th June 2019.  He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Ineke, his children Tim, Justine and Jeff, and his granddaughter Eve.

Read a sample from this book

I fell in love with the blues hearing Jimmy Reed singing “Bright Lights, Big City.” At that time, rock and roll was changing; losing its gritty edge. Eddie Cochran said it well with “Summertime Blues,” a rockabilly classic. I grew up in the northeast of the US. There was a strong doo-wop and R&B scene, but we were deprived of the great rockabilly records. We had Bill Dogget’s “Honky Tonk Part 1” which topped the R&B charts in 1956. Billy Butler’s guitar licks and Clifford Scott’s sax solo made it a masterpiece: Cool jazz cats inventing rock and roll. Doors were finally opening for black artists. Still, the record companies tried to feed us white artists like Pat Boone singing Little Richard, but no one could cover Little Richard. He made us dance! Finally, I found my way to The Apollo Theater in Harlem, New york. This was my first look at live bluesmen and I couldn’t have found any better than BB King with T-Bone Walker.

The 1960s brought popularity to the blues. What had been called “race music” was now for everyone, via The Rolling Stones and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, with Eric Clapton on guitar. We had some great players on this side of the pond, including Mike Bloomfield, John Hammond and Johnny Winter. Jimi Hendrix was still a few years off. Blues shows at venues like the Fillmore East and West were becoming more common. I attended a blues show at a club in greenwich village called the Café Au go go and I heard blues so powerful it stunned me: Son House, Skip James, The Muddy Waters’ Blues Band and Paul Butterfield. I bought Delta Blues LPs by Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Memphis Minnie and anyone else I could find. Around that time I got a job at young & Rubicam Advertising as a photographic assistant to Joe Eisenberg. Joe was a wonderful mentor and gave my life a new direction. He encouraged me in my own photography. I am honored to have taken photos of these great blues artists. Many have passed on, but their music still lives in our hearts.

Ray Jeanotte
Seattle, Washington

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