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Collection Overview
 
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Description
The Brownie McGhee Papers consist of audio cassettes, photographs, programs, and VHS videotape documenting the life and musical career of blues musician Brownie McGhee. The collection is arranged into three series: I. Brownie McGhee, II. Blues is Truth Foundation, III. Interviews with Styve Homnick. A majority of the Brownie McGhee series consists of 83 audiocassettes of interviews with Brownie McGhee conducted by Leslie Ann Wright and her partner Mike Twomey in preparation of his autobiography. The interviews document McGhee's musical career including his experiences living with blues musician Lead Belly and performing in New York City in the 1940s, traveling internationally as a blues musician, the West Coast Blues scene in California, and his long career in film and television. The collection offers a detailed first person perspective of a blues-folk musician whose career spanned most of the 20th century.
Background
Blues musician Walter B. "Brownie" McGhee (1915-1996) was born on November 30, 1915 in Knoxville, Tennessee to George Duffield McGhee, a construction worker, and Zella Hennley. He learned to play guitar from his father and started his musical career performing at the Solomon Temple Baptist Church in Kingsport, Tennessee and as a member of the Golden Voices Gospel Quartet. After contracting polio as a child, he suffered a walking disability until he underwent surgery funded by the March of Dimes to correct his ailment in 1937. By the late 1930s, he was traveling throughout the South performing as an iterant blues musician at churches, carnivals and briefly as a member of the Rabbit Foot Minstrels.
Extent
3 linear feet (4 boxes)
Restrictions
Permission to publish from the Brownie McGhee Papers must be obtained from the African American Museum and Library at Oakland.
Availability
No access restrictions. Collection is open to the public.