LBC: Lunch with ALBERT MURRAY!! (Long)

Thu Jul 31 11:16:47 EDT 1997

I had the most amazing lunch of my life yesterday with ALBERT MURRAY (over 3
hours long), author of _Stompin' the Blues_ (1976, which I highly recommend
to everyone), _The Omni-Americans_, _South to a Very Old Place_, _Good
Morning Blues_ (Count Basie bio), _The Hero and the Blues_, etc.  He was
here as a featured speaker for our Center's annual Faulkner Conference.

Albert Murray was at Tuskeegee with Ralph Ellison.  He lived in New York when
BeBop was emerging.  He spoke volumes about living in Paris in the 50's with
Richard (Wright) and (James) Baldwin, and Ralph (Ellison), etc., etc., etc.
He had bad words re: Baldwin I'm afraid.  He said that Baldwin couldn't make
it in America so he went to France and became a superstar. Following the
French influence, after believing everything they said about him, he became
a "half-assed existentialist."

He told a great story about picking Ralph Ellison up in Casablanca and
taking off on a car trip of North Africa.  And another about "spending time"
with Richard Wright's wife in Paris while Richard was off in South America
spending all of his money on that godawful film version of _Native Son_ in
which Wright plays Bigger Thomas.

This guy spoke with AUTHORITY not only on blues & jazz, but also on ancient
Greek drama and literature, the history of photography, world travel, the
Tuskeegee Air Force, how Booker T. Washington made Harlem a black
neighborhood, etc., etc.  He is a true thinker.  The fact that he was born
black and impoverished in the Deep South in 1914 has not stopped Albert
Murray from becoming the sharpest and broadest mind which I've ever had the
pleasure to encounter.  He couples all of that with a great sense of humor
and gregarious nature.  His impetus to ignore the girls during high school
and study was because he knew "how much better the girls would be at college."

The long lunch also turned into a trip to the Memphis airport to see off Dr.
Murray.  My mind feel like an incredibly over-saturated sponge.

Scott McCraw
Center for the Study of Southern Culture
University of Mississippi
University, MS 38677

Phone: 601-232-5993  Fax: 601-232-5814   E-mail:

More information about the Blues-l mailing list