||It's Only the Blues, but Wyman Likes it
By Jason MacNeil, Billboard.Com, 9/20/2001
ORONTO - With the Rolling Stones a memory for him, the group's former bassist, Bill Wyman, has spent his recent years playing, archiving, listening, interviewing, and writing about the music that acted as the band's catalyst almost 40 years ago. Having written about the band's early days in the meticulously detailed ''Stone Alone,'' he has returned with ''Bill Wyman's Blues Odyssey: A Journey To Music's Heart & Soul,'' a book dedicated to former Stones Brian Jones and Ian Stewart.
''I've got lots of books on the history of blues music by many great writers like Paul Oliver and all of those people,'' Wyman said during a promotional stop in Toronto. ''For someone who's not a blues fanatic, they can be very hard to read because you tend to keep putting them down. They're very, very detailed.
''I wanted to do a book that was much more visual and easy to read but said all the right things,'' he continued. ''Full of illustrations and full of maps of where all those magical places were that you heard about in records and know exactly where they were for a change. We did a lot of different things with it and I think it turned out rather beautifully.''
Coauthored by Richard Havers, the book actually started as a radio series in England, with 13 half-hour programs devoted to 13 blues legends such as John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf. After the pilot program, which featured Sonny Boy Williamson, many loved the idea but thought it was best suited for television, a medium for which it was later developed. Two years into the TV run, the idea of a book became more suitable. The result is an often scholarly yet enjoyable, visually appealing account, starting in Africa and leading up to artists like Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy. Maps, timelines, and sidebars of places in songs, song histories, and personal accounts dot the effort throughout.
''I think for something like this it genuinely is a labor of love,'' Havers said. ''Often you see books like this, you think he's maybe written the introduction or gotten a ghost writer. But this was Bill's idea from the outset. If anybody has read `Stone Alone,' they know how into details Bill is. And if you've played with the legends and you met them, it certainly gives you a head start.''
Wyman relied on his collection of more than 1,300 blues albums to prepare for writing the book, along with reading books, conducting interviews, and recalling conversations that he has recorded in a personal diary he's kept since 1959. Along with the book, a two-disc companion album featuring music from 1926 to 1951 is set for release coinciding with the finished television special (scheduled to air Nov. 1 on Bravo). A DVD is also being finished.
Wyman said that unlike the case with sports, cinema, or art, many people don't know about the history of the blues.
''It was only pure luck that some of these early artists were recorded in the first place,'' Wyman said. ''Because of the technology, there were many blues artists who were never known or heard of, and that's the shame of it. Hopefully this book will make people a bit more aware of the fantastic people in the past we don't hear about anymore.''
This story ran on page 18 of the Boston Globe on 9/20/2001