“I Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down”
a six hour long radio documentary about the Mississippi Delta Blues
Written, Produced and Narrated by Frank Matheis, Melon Productions, New York
The 6 hour long program series takes its title from a song by Mississippi Fred McDowell. It is a historical documentary series that covers the rise of the rural, country blues of the Mississippi Delta from the 1920’s through the migration of African-Americans to points north in the 1940’s. It includes the period up to development of the urban sound known as “the Chicago blues”. The documentary concludes with a look at the acoustic blues today, in the 21st Century, and spotlights some of today’s musicians in this genre.
‘I Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down’ …should be required listening for anyone interested in American music…because it brims with powerful, potentially life-changing blues. You cannot hear this music and remain unmoved.”
- Eric Pooley, TIME Magazine
Hour By Hour Program Description
To download Podcasts: right click (Mac users Control-click) on “Download” and choose ‘Save Link As’ or ‘Download Linked File’.
Part 1 – A & B
Focuses on the general definition of the blues and an exploration of its origins, meaning and global impact, with a special effort to explore the socio-economic hardship and difficult circumstances of the African-American population under Jim Crow. An effort is made to trace the roots of the blues back to the indigenous music of West Africa. Dr. David Evans, one of America’s most preeminent blues historians and professor of music at the University of Memphis, provides insightful commentary.
Musical samples include African gonje music and a contemporary collaboration of American blues musician and African musicians from Mali. Also featured are the musical precursors to the blues- namely fife & drum, work chants and spirituals and the music by the Mississippi Sheiks, Vera Hall and Furry Lewis. James Earl Jones reads Raymond R. Patterson’s blues poem “Jelly Blues”. And, a special excerpt of a Woody Guthrie’s interview with Alan Lomax with Woody’s insightful interpretation of the meaning of the blues.
Part 1A | 31:20 | Download
Part 1B | 23:09 | Download
Part 1B | 23:09 | Download
Part 2 – A & B
Defines the slide guitar style as an integral part of the blues with examples by Bukka White and Muddy Waters. Dr. David Evans provides commentary about the slide guitar and its origins. Then some of the great Mississippi Players are introduced: Charley Patton, Son House, and Tommy Johnson. Also featured are songs by Big Joe Williams and Willie Brown.
Part 2A | 27:18 | Download
Part 2B | 28:36 | Download
Part 3 – A & B
Introduces Robert Johnson, one of the most significant of Mississippi style players. The blues lyric is discussed with examples of poetry of Raymond R. Patterson, author of “Elemental Blues” read by James Earl Jones. Then the country blues harmonica is discussed with examples by De Ford Bailey, Robert Cooksey, Blues Birdhead, Hammie Nixon & Sleepy John Estes , Jazz Gillum, and Sonny Boy Williamson.
Part 3A | 25:18 | Download
Part 3B | 28:17 | Download
Part 4 – A & B
Features the field recordings by two of America’s greatest musicologists Alan Lomax and Dr. David Evans. Dr. Evans shares and interesting anecdote of a filed recording in 1965 at the home of bluesman Roosevelt Holts and includes a song recorded during that session. Then, the work of Alan Lomax is highlighted. The curator of the Alan Lomax archives, Matt Barton, provides interesting analysis about the meaning and impact of Lomax’s work. His field recordings of three outstanding blues players are featured : Muddy Waters, Fred McDowell and Forrest City Joe.
Part 4A | 26:48 | Download
Part 4B | 27:29 Download
Part 5 – A & B
Follows the mass migration of the rural Mississippi population to the urban centers of the cold north. The Chicago blues are a continuation of the Mississippi style blues as many musicians headed into the big cities and gave birth to a new, amplified and electrified sound- the urban blues, the primary precursor to rock and roll. This period was the golden era of the blues a sound who became a worldwide success and remained popular to today. Muddy Waters and the Howlin’ Wolf are highlighted, with songs by John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Arthur Big Boy Crudup, Elmore James, Big Mama Thornton, Otis Rush, Little Walter and Junior Wells.
Part 5A | 28:38 | Download
Part 5B | 24:37 | Download
Part 6 – A & B
Focuses on the acoustic blues of today highlighting a few of today’s best musicians. While no longer “Mississippi blues” per se, this hour focuses on musicians who keep the spirit of the traditional, country blues alive. Musicians Corey Harris, Olu Dara, and Doug MacLeod are interviewed. The African-American activist, music producer and publisher, Salaam Kaleem, provides commentary. The musical selections include songs by John Hammond, Corey Harris, Olu Dara, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Sheila Wilcoxson, Doug MacLeod , Keb Mo’, Rory Block, Slam Allen, Guy Davis and Jessie Mae Hemphill.
Part 6A | 26:40 | Download
Part 6B | 27:31 | Download