Guitarist and songwriter Rory Block was a teenager in the mid-’60s when she ditched high school in favour of travelling across the country in search of the blues. With her travelling partner Stefan Grossman, she met and learned the essence of the blues from some of its most legendary figures.
Block sat down with Saturday Night Blues host Holger Petersen to talk about her discovery of the blues and the influence it has had on her life. For a video of the full SNB interview, scroll to the bottom of the page.
For Manhattan-raised Block, everything began in New York City’s Washington Square Park.
“There were crowds around Washington Square Park around every style of music,” Block told Petersen. “And all these people, who became very famous later, were just starting. They were ever so approachable. Bob Dylan lived in the neighbourhood; John Lennon lived in the neighbourhood. It was a really incredible musical energy.”
It was in Washington Square that Block met Grossman. “I was pretty lucky because I was there knowing Stefan, who had a permanent backstage pass,” she said. Through Grossman, Block had a chance to meet Son House, Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi Fred McDowell and other fathers of the blues.
At that time in the mid-’60s, many of these now-historic figures were living in obscurity. It was the burgeoning folk festival scene that gave them new life, and exposed them to young music fans, like Block, who were eager to discover the roots of American music.
A successful career and a lifetime later, Block has been paying tribute to many of her mentors with a series of recordings dedicated to showcasing their idiosyncratic talents.
For the armchair musicologists in the audience, this video interview is a wonderful journey through her discoveries. Block is a dynamic storyteller who generously shares her life, and some astute observations on the history of the blues.
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