In Memoriam: Samuel B. Charters

10 p.m. to Midnight Host: Steve Winters

It is only occasionally that Profiles places the spotlight not on performing artists who have died but on those “behind the scenes” who contributed greatly to American vernacular music. This is one of those nights. Samuel B. Charters wrote The Country Blues in 1959 (with a companion album) and opened the ears and eyes of an entire generation to an American musical art form that had been woefully neglected. As Ted Gioia wrote in his authoritative Delta Blues in 2008, “In retrospect, we can mark the publication of The Country Blues … as a signal event in the history of music, a moment of recognition and legitimization, but even more of proselytization, introducing a whole generation to the neglected riches of an art form. Very little information was available on early blues singers at this time, and Charter’s success in telling their stories, despite these limitations, stands as a major achievement.” Sam Charters died March 18 at age 85 in Sweden.

But Sam Charters accomplished so much more in a career that spanned nearly 65 years. He was a producer, a performer, a collector, a scholar, a fieldworker, a record label owner, a poet, a novelist and a translator, many times working with his wife Ann Charters who taught American Literature at the University of Connecticut. This program is a cursory outline of contributions that Charters made to blues and folk music as a researcher, producer, artist, and record label owner. For reasons of time, the program does not touch deeply on the fieldwork he did in blues and global music, including his rediscovery of Lightnin’ Hopkins, his work with Joseph Spence of the Bahamas and his recent excursions into world music.

  • Artist, "Title", Album, Label

  • John Fahey, “Requiem For John Hurt”, Requia, Vanguard


  • Bessie Smith, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out”, “New Orleans Hop Scop Blues”, Bessie

  • Smith: The Complete Recordings/Vol. 4, Columbia, ,

  • Bukka White, “Fixin’ To Die”, The Country Blues, RBF Recordings

  • Bob Dylan, “Fixin’ To Die”, Bob Dylan, Columbia

  • Blind Lemon Jefferson, “Matchbox Blues”, The Country Blues, RBF Recordings

  • Lonnie Johnson, “Careless Love”, The Country Blues, RBF Recordings

  • Cannon’s Jug Stompers, “Walk Right In”, The Country Blues, RBF Recordings


  • The Rev. Gary Davis, “Maple Leaf Rag”, The Prestige/Folklore Years/ Vol. 3, Prestige/ Folklore

  • Jesse Fuller, “How Long Blues”, Jesse Fuller’s Favorites, Prestige/Folklore

  • Tracy Nelson, “Ramblin’ Man”, Deep Are The Roots, Prestige/Folklore

  • Eric von Schmidt, “Light Rain”, Eric Sings von Schmidt, Prestige/Folklore

  • Holy Modal Rounders, “Bound To Lose”, “Euphoria”, The Holy Modal Rounders, Prestige/Folklore


  • Country Joe & The Fish, “Fish Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin-To-Die Rag”, Collector’s Edition, Vanguard

  • Junior Wells, “Viet Cong Blues”, Chicago: The Blues/Today! Vol. 1, Vanguard

  • Otis Spann, “Spann's Stomp”, Chicago: The Blues/Today! Vol. 1, Vanguard

  • Charlie Musselwhite, “Christo Redemptor”, Stand Back! Here Comes Charlie Musselwhite, Vanguard

  • Paul Butterfield Blues Band, “Born in Chicago”, Blues With A Feeling/Newport Folk Festival, Vanguard


  • The New Strangers, “I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore”, “Alberta”, Meet The New Strangers, P/F

  • True Endeavor Jug Band, “Blues Just Blues That’s All”, “Jug Band Blues”, The Art Of the True Endeavor Jug Band

  • Prestige/Folklore, , ,


  • Dave Van Ronk, “Stone Sober Blues”, To All My Friends In Far-Flung Places, Gazell

  • Dave Van Ronk, “Another Time And Place”, Going Back To Brooklyn, Gazell