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Blues Before Sunrise

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Genre: Music

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Not Currently Scheduled.

About the Show

Blues Before Sunrise is the Blues Heritage showcase. Each week this Chicago based, nationally syndicated public radio program explores, preserves, and popularizes the various eras and genre of Blues Heritage. The focus of this award winning program is on the first fifty years of recorded Blues, starting with the very first Blues record, Crazy Blues by Mamie Smith recorded in 1920. When historians and musicologists refer to Blues as Americas Root music, its the Blues recorded during this period to which they refer. These recordings serve as the basis for most of American popular music including Jazz, Gospel, Rhythm & Blues, Soul, and Rock & Roll. Imagine walking through the rooms that house the record collection at the Smithsonian Institution, the walls lined from floor to ceiling with shelves of Blues records – Blues from every era and stylistic school ever known. Blues Before Sunrise is the program that pulls the records off the shelf and plays them for you, profiling the figures, seminal and obscure, that shaped this music; helping to breathe life into these neglected pioneers of popular culture, tracing their development and highlighting their relevance down through the decades.


Blues Before Sunrise is not just another record show, its a cultural treasure trove, the program where every week is Black History Month! In addition to playing records by literally thousands of Blues singers recorded during this 50 year span, the program also presents some of the most celebrated-yet-seldom heard Black artists of by-gone days including Bert Williams, Paul Robeson, Josephine Baker, Marion Anderson, Noble Sissle & Eubie Blake, Miller & Lyle, The Nicholas Brothers, and W.C.Handy. Blues Before Sunrise is the only radio show regularly playing these rare recordings. Blues Before Sunrise provides a forum for the records of such timeless luminaries as Joe Williams, Dinah Washington, The King Cole Trio, Cab Calloway, Billy Eckstine, Arthur Prysock, Erskine Hawkins, Slim & Slam, Hot Lips Page, and many others. In addition to playing the records from this historic era, over the years Blues Before Sunrise has made it a part of its mission to talk to the people who have made the music. Host Steve Cushing has conducted extensive, in-depth interviews with literally scores of Blues people including singers and players, record producers, managers, and disc jockeys. These Bluesmen and Blueswomen have fascinating stories to share about their lives and careers, their recordings, and the by-gone world that spawned the Blues. These stories are humorous and dramatic and help bring to life this largely undocumented chapter of African-American Heritage.

Blues Before Sunrise Radio Interviews


Blues Before Sunrise

The Radio Interviews

Exceptional discussions with early blues makers, from the blues heritage radio showcase

This collection assembles the best interviews from Steve Cushing’s long-running radio program Blues Before Sunrise, the nationally syndicated, award-winning program focusing on vintage blues and R&B. As both an observer and performer, Cushing has been involved with the blues scene in Chicago for decades. His candid, colorful interviews with prominent blues players, producers, and deejays reveal the behind-the-scenes world of the formative years of recorded blues. Many of these oral histories detail the careers of lesser-known but greatly influential blues performers and promoters.

The book focuses in particular on pre–World War II blues singers, performers active in 1950s Chicago, and nonperformers who contributed to the early blues world. Interviewees include Alberta Hunter, one of the earliest African American singers to transition from Chicago’s Bronzeville nightlife to the international spotlight, and Ralph Bass, one of the greatest R&B producers of his era. Blues expert, writer, record producer, and cofounder of Living Blues Magazine Jim O’Neal provides the book’s foreword.

“The book is an unqualified ‘must have’ for any blues fan interested in the history of the music.”– Blues

“Cushing has provided a massive public service . . . with this enthralling volume.”–Juke Blues

“Captures . . . lightning in twelve different bottles.”–Notes

“Cushing’s interviews are among the best I have ever read. Blues Before Sunrise appeals to blues fans, media scholars, and any reader who appreciates regional voices and good old-fashioned storytelling.”–Barry Lee Pearson, coauthor of Robert Johnson: Lost and Found

“Sure to fascinate and delight both scholars and general readers, these interviews are full of wonderful material, including some bombshells about who really wrote hit blues songs.”–Steve Cheseborough, blues performer and author of Blues Traveling: The Holy Sites of Delta Blues

Steve Cushing has been the host of Blues Before Sunrise for thirty years. He has served as anchor of WBEZ’s nationwide broadcast of the Chicago Blues Festival, performs frequently as a drummer, and has produced several recordings by Magic Slim, Lurrie Bell, and Smokey Smothers.


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