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Blues: Electric Blues Moods: Mood: Virtuoso Blues: Harmonica Blues

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United States - Massachusetts

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Steve Tracy and the Crawling Kingsnakes

I BLEED THROUGH MY SOUL
STEVE TRACY AND THE CRAWLING KINGSNAKES

A singer and harmonica player, Steve Tracy has recorded with his own band, Pigmeat Jarrett, Big Joe Duskin, and Albert Washington, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and opened for T-Bone Walker, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Albert King, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, James Cotton, Canned Heat, Johnny Winter, and many others. While a senior at Walnut Hills High School, Steve won a national harmonica championship for ages 13-18 that put him as a guest on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show, initiating his career as a performer. He also appeared locally on a number of variety shows, including Nick Clooney’s (George’s father) and Bob Braun’s, taking along Cincinnati bluesmen when possible. Tracy toured the Netherlands with Steve Tracy and the Crawling Kingsnakes following the release of the CD Going to Cincinnati, performing also in the UK, France, China, and via teleconference to Israel.

While Steve was a grad student, noted author, Clinton administration director of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Professor William Ferris noted his “extraordinarily powerful and versatile blues repertoire” and “amazing blues harmonica performance” in a review of an appearance at a folklore convention. On the 1990 tour, Oor Magazine, “the Rolling Stone of the Netherlands,” called him “the best harmonica player ever.” Reviewing the CD that prompted that tour in 1991, Canadian journal Cadence lauded his “magnificent harp” playing.

He has also written 50 CD liner notes for a variety of labels, including Document Records, and for Albert Washington's two releases on Ace (UK). As a long-time researcher and supporter of the Cincinnati blues scene, Tracy organized his activities in such a way as to emphasize the importance of the scene in a variety of ways. As a writer for Blues Unlimited, Living Blues, Jefferson, and Juke Blues, he documented the history and contemporary Cincinnati blues scene. Steve has also served as a co-performer, sometime booking agent, and friend of a variety of bluesmen, helping nurture the careers of Cincinnati's elder statesmen of the blues. Steve spent over a decade as a blues DJ on WAIF, WNOP, and WVXU radio stations during that time helping to organize blues days and blues cruises on the Ohio River. He produced an LP by Pigmeat Jarrett for June Appal Records, which brought Pigmeat national acclaim and gigs outside the country, and he delivered Pigmeat's obituary on NPR. Tracy received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Greater Cincinnati Blues Society along with his friend Albert Washington the year he left Cincinnati for Massachusetts. He returns to Cincinnati occasionally to host the Blues and Boogie Woogie Piano Stage at the Greater Cincinnati Blues Festival, and periodically performs at the Festival as well.

Professionally, Tracy is Distinguished Professor of Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst, and was named by the China Ministry of Education a Distinguished Overseas Professor at Central China Normal University in Wuhan, China. He is author of Langston Hughes and the Blues (U of Illinois Press 1988), Going to Cincinnati: A History of the Blues in the Queen City (U of Illinois P, 1993), and A Brush with the Blues (1997). He also served as general co-editor of The Collected Works of Langston Hughes (U of Missouri P, 2001-2004) and editor of Write Me a Few of Your Lines: A Blues Reader (UMass P, 1999), Langston Hughes: Works for Children and Young Adults (U of Missouri P, 2001), A Historical Guide to Langston Hughes (Oxford UP, 2004), A Historical Guide to Ralph Ellison (Oxford UP, 2004), and After Winter: The Life and Work of Sterling A. Brown (with John Edgar Tidwell Oxford UP 2009). Tracy provided the introduction for Howard W. Odum’s novels Rainbow Round My Shoulder (Indiana University Press, 2006) and Wings on My Feet, and for Roark Bradford's John Henry (Oxford UP 2008). His two latest books are published by the University of Alabama Press—Hot Music, Ragmentation, and the Bluing of American Literature--and University of Illinois Press—Writers of the Black Chicago Renaissance. In total, he has written, edited, co-edited, general co-edited, and introduced 30 books. He has contributed more than 100 essays to journals, dictionaries, encyclopedias, critical works, and textbooks on topics such as August Wilson, Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, African American music, Sutton Griggs, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, the New Negro Renaissance, the Black Chicago Renaissance, and other subjects.

Tracy has lectured and presented at conferences in such places as France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, England, Israel, and Canada. Most recently, he has traveled over a dozen times to China to give keynote addresses and a series of lectures on American and African American literature and music at ten different Chinese universities, and is scheduled to return in 2017. He was named a Chu Tian Scholar (the highest scholarly honor in Hubei province) for 2012-2016 and will be in residence two months per year in 2017-2022 at Central China Normal University as a teacher, scholar, and performer as a Distinguished Overseas Professor, a national honor granted by the Chinese Ministry of Education. In 2010, he was placed on the roster of Senior Specialists of the Fulbright Foundation, and served as Fulbright Scholar at the University of Konstanz, Germany. Recently, Steve served as visual and textual advisor on a Ralph Ellison stamp released in 2014.

His doctoral dissertation and first book, Langston Hughes and the Blues (1988), has been recognized as the first full-length monograph to tackle a single subject in the work of Langston Hughes, as well as the only book-length study of the use of the blues in the literary work of an author. It is being released in November 2017 in Chinese translation. His second monograph, Going to Cincinnati: A History of the Blues in the Queen City (1993), won the Association of Recorded Sound Collections Award for best book on Jazz, Blues, and Gospel Music in 1990, and has recently been named one of the 100 Books Every Blues Fan Should Own. His path-breaking Write Me a Few of Your Lines: A Blues Reader (1993) is the preeminent reader in the field, and has been named one of the outstanding reference books behind the 100 Books Every Blues Fan Should Own. His most recent monograph, Hot Music, Ragmentation, and the Bluing of American Literature, was published by the University of Alabama Press in 2015. It has been called by Professor Arnold Rampersad, MacArthur Fellowship Award Winner, a “magisterial study,” “superbly researched and beautifully written, accessible to one and all and yet learned and complex,” and “an extraordinary, indispensable book from a remarkable American scholar.” Professor William Ferris comments that the book “will forever change how we understand both the blues and American literature,” and “represents the very best of American Studies scholarship.”

Steve Tracy 132 Logtown Road Amherst, MA 01002*

(413) 256-1493*

sctracy@afroam.umass.edu

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