With a deep catalog of over 350 albums released over the span of almost 50 years, Iglauer and Alligator Records has documented and preserved music by both blues legends and lesser-knowns alike, sometimes dabbling in Americana, R&B, blues-rock, and even reggae music (!) without moving far from the label’s core mission.
Alligator’s legacy is built on the blues, however, with albums from the aforementioned Hound Dog Taylor – whose raucous sound would become the template for the label’s future releases (the label’s slogan is “Genuine HouseRockin’ Music”) – and bona fide greats like Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, James Cotton, and Charlie Musselwhite building a foundation for the business. There are also artists like Son Seals, Lonnie Brooks, Albert Collins, Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials, and Saffire – The Uppity Blues Women, among several others, whose careers were nurtured by the label and with whom the artists’ fortunes have long been tied.
Bruce Iglauer’s Bitten By The Blues
Bitten By The Blues tells the tale of blues music in the latter part of the 20th century and the early 2000s, with art and commerce intersecting in often interesting ways. Iglauer has been intimately involved in the blues music scene since his late 1960s college days, and has been deeply immersed in the business of music nearly as long. Bitten By The Blues digs deep into the hidden mechanisms of the music biz, offering up a fascinating portrait of the ups and downs of running what, at this point, is one of American’s longest-running independent record labels. Unlike men in similar positions in the industry, Iglauer isn’t afraid to tell the whole story, warts and all, and the book offers reminders of bad business decisions, or situations where the blues-lovin’ Bruce went into a bad deal following his heart rather than his head.
The Reverend’s Bottom Line
Most importantly, perhaps, Bitten By The Blues reveals some of Bruce’s vision for the future of the label, a future that’s not carved in stone by any means, but is strengthened by the label’s discovery and development of young talents like Shemekia Copeland and Selwyn Birchwood as well as the addition of road-tested blues veterans like Tommy Castro, Nick Moss, and Tinsley Ellis to the label’s ever-evolving roster. Bitten By The Blues is an insightful and entertaining read for any blues music fanatic or anybody interested in the business of music. The only (admittedly minor) quibble I have with the book is that I’d loved to have seen more photos, but extra credit to Bruce for including a complete Alligator Records discography that we rabid collectors can use as a convenient shopping list. Grade: A+ (University of Chicago Press, published October 19, 2018)
Buy the book from Amazon.com: Brucer Iglauer & Patrick A. Roberts’ Bitten By The Blues
Also on That Devil Music.com:
Shemekia Copeland - America’s Child CD review
Elvin Bishop - Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio CD review
Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection CD review