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PARIS, THE NEW NORMAL? — Diana Johnstone files an in-depth report from Paris on the political reaction to the Charlie Hebdo shootings; The Treachery of the Black Political Class: Margaret Kimberley charts the rise and fall of the Congressional Black Caucus; The New Great Game: Pepe Escobar assays the game-changing new alliance between Russia and Turkey; Will the Frackers Go Bust? Joshua Frank reports on how the collapse of global oil prices might spell the end of the fracking frenzy in the Bakken Shale; The Future of the Giraffe: Ecologist Monica Bond reports from Tanzania on the frantic efforts to save one of the world’s most iconic species. Plus: Jeffrey St. Clair on Satire in the Service of Power; Chris Floyd on the Age of Terrorism and Absurdity; Mike Whitney on the Drop Dead Fed; John Wight on the rampant racism of Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper;” John Walsh on Hillary Clinton and Lee Ballinger on the Gift of Anger.
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