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Steady Rollin' with Bob Margolin
By Chip Eagle
Bob Margolin is one of the Blues World’s great guitar players. He is also one of the Blues World’s finest writers. His long-running column in Blues Revue is one of the popular features and many readers have told us that his column is the first thing they read. Bob has long talked about writing a book and he has been working on it for nearly as long. New digital technology has made it possible and we are privileged to have arranged to offer you a series of excerpts from that book, Steady Rollin’.
We will begin this week with Bob’s full introduction to the book. We are certain that you will want to download the whole thing and information to do that follows the introduction. Please know that BluesWax receives nothing for sales of the Ebook, all proceeds go to the author. We are just proud to share some of it with you. [Editor's Note: Please note that we have attempted to keep these excerpts as close to the original as possible. Please also note that Bob always capitalizes the word "Blues."]
INTRODUCTION: “YOU SHOULD WRITE A BOOK…”
OK, here’s my book.
In the 1970s, as a guitar player in Muddy Waters’ Blues band, friends I met on the road said I had some good stories. My life gave me plenty to share with them. They often suggested, “You should write a book.” When I started writing about Blues-related subjects for local entertainment magazines in North Carolina in 1991 and then started writing for the new Blues Revue magazine in 1993, I heard it more often. I expanded my audience with BluesWax online magazine in 2004.
I enjoy a perk that most writers don’t experience: I meet many of my readers at my musical gigs. They ask for a book, too. I hope my music attracts people to my writing, and for readers who never heard my music, my writing might make them curious to hear it. For me it’s a natural and compatible marriage of pursuits.
Since I signed on to Facebook in 2009, I use it to post old and new snapshots I took on the road with stories about them. Blues fans enjoy that and often comment, “You should write a book.” That’s an ironic message to be delivered to my iPhone through an instant electronic disposable social network. I never did publish a “coffee table book” — there was interest from a publisher but no progress. Now, eBooks offer a new way to deliver a book to you conveniently without using trees for paper, gasoline for shipping, and without traditional publishing’s compromises and obstacles. I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time and now the opportunity and technology are right.
I have chosen some of what I consider my best writing from my columns from Blues Revue magazine and BluesWax online, with new introductions to update and put them in perspective. I’ve tweaked many of them to make them better for you too. I’m offering some photos that I’ve taken or were given to me since the 1960s, with new comments and stories. And I hope you enjoy my Blues Fiction, which has been previously published mostly in Blues Revue. Blues Fiction is the closest to songwriting and playing music for me, because it combines my experience with my imagination in a story.
I did have one opportunity to “write a book” in the mid-1990s: John Lee Hooker’s manager and booking agent, Mike Kappus, founder of the Rosebud agency, asked me about writing an authorized biography of John Lee. He liked my informal writing style that he saw in my Blues Revue story about Muddy Waters (included in this eBook), who had also enjoyed Mike’s booking talents. I was deeply complimented, but I could see that the research involved in such a serious writing project would take much time from playing music. My heart told me to favor the guitar, but after many years I finally have a chance to do what folks tell me I “should” do without missing a gig. Most of this book was written on a laptop in vans, planes, or hotel rooms over the last eighteen years.
My aptly named B.S. degree in Public Relations from Boston University is now a 41-year-old virgin because it’s never screwed anyone. Though I picked up a few tips in college on how to write clearly, I’m just sharing my thoughts on my musical experiences in a conversational, friendly way. I’ve been a professional Blues musician since 1972. Back in the 1970s, sometimes I would drag around a Kodak Instamatic with flashcubes or a Polaroid SX-70 instant camera. Here, my photos and a few that were given to me have newly written comments behind them. Decades of hindsight inform the captions.
I try to write as I would talk to a friend who is a music fan rather than journalistically. No doubt some of my writing could be constructed better but an editor might take away my style, tone, and voice while correcting my syntax. Sometimes I use commas, dashes, or three dots to indicate pauses in phrasing, as a musician uses space. I never shy away from writing the word “you” or asking the reader a question, which are frowned upon by editors but not by friends in conversation. Who do you think I’m writing for? And sinfully ending the last sentence with a preposition while this sentence is incomplete! Written or spoken prose can use vernacular, pauses, and rhythm the same way music does and I hope I tell my stories better by using them.
Onstage I try to find a flow of songs that rises and falls in tempo and intensity and try to feel when to set up a song with a story or just shut up and groove for the dancers. For this book I try to use my musical experience as a stage performer and album producer to present my writing, snapshots, and Blues fiction stories in an entertaining, well-paced sequence.
Still, you can browse this book and start anywhere, as with an album of recorded songs and unlike with a novel. Start with a short story at the end if you want. You don’t need the context of anything in the beginning of the book, including this introduction.
I choose to focus only on my writing and photos in this eBook. Even my short autobiography highlights here relate only to my professional life. I am blessed with a wonderful family and friends, but they’re not in this book.
I hope my book plays to your heart, as music should. It might make you think too, but only if you want to. It’s my pleasure to share our love of music and musicians. You certainly can get to know me better from however much you browse or digest. If you would like to make it a conversation, please write to me at email@example.com. I’ll try to answer everything you write as much as I humanly can. (09/30/2011)