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ANATOMY OF TORTURE — Historian Christopher Dietrich on the 100-year-long history of American torture; Jeffrey St. Clair on the implications of giving impunity to the CIA’s torturers; Chris Floyd on how the US has exported torture to its client states around the world. David Macaray on the Paradoxes of Police Unions; Louis Proyect on Slave Rebellions in the Open Seas; Paul Krassner on the Perils of Political Cartooning; Martha Rosenberg on the dangers of Livestock Shot-up with Antibiotics; and Lee Ballinger on Elvis, Race and the Poor South. Plus: Mike Whitney on Greece and the Eurozone and JoAnn Wypijewski on Media Lies that Killed.
The singer is Big Maybelle; the man in the sparkly suit, Rufus Thomas. The place: a jook joint somewhere around Memphis. The photographer: Ernest C. Withers. Big Maybelle had a hit with “Gabbin Blues” in 1953, around when this picture was made. Thomas was a DJ on the all-black WDIA radio station in Memphis and […]

The Memphis Blues Again

by Daniel Wolff

The singer is Big Maybelle; the man in the sparkly suit, Rufus Thomas. The place: a jook joint somewhere around Memphis. The photographer: Ernest C. Withers. Big Maybelle had a hit with “Gabbin Blues” in 1953, around when this picture was made. Thomas was a DJ on the all-black WDIA radio station in Memphis and was cutting “Bear Cat” over at Sun Records with Sam Phillips. He’d go on to do “The Funky Chicken” at Stax.

Withers was (and still is) a commercial photographer on Beale Street who covered segregated Memphis. He took pictures of all the r&b stars from a young Aretha Franklin cozying up to Sam Cooke to Muddy Water congratulating a local Little League team to Marvin Gaye hiding behind security.

Withers’ music photographs have just come out in a new book: The Memphis Blues Again: Six Decades of Memphis Music Photographs. Selected, identified, and with an introduction by Daniel Wolff.

“I am a photographer, and when you’re a photographer, you make a shining light of an image.” Ernest C. Withers