Oak Park Library is a gem. Over the years, it has brought wonderful programs, authors, musicians and print artists to the community. There are terrific activities for children, job seekers and photographers.  But they have really scored a coup with their latest program—America’s Music. This 25 event program brings a taste of the wide range of American popular music from the blues to hip-hop to Oak Park.  

The library is one of only 50 in the nation to be awarded a grant for this. The staff, in particular Debby Preiser, have pulled together a wide-ranging series that includes documentaries, films, discussions and live musical acts. The program runs through the end of March and is definitely worth attending.  Times and events are available on the library’s website: oppl.org.  There are varied programs aimed at teens, families and the rest of us.

On Monday 2-11-13 I heard Terry Abrahamson, the author of In the Belly of Blues (which I consistently try to type as In the Belly of the Beast, a book by Jack Abbott).

Abrahamson has issued a memoir about his youthful escapades with blues legends such as Muddy Waters, George Thorogood and John Lee Hooker.

He recounted vignettes that were both salty and sweet about these musical originals who have mostly passed on now. In the 70’s, however, it was possible to go to Alice’s Revisited, a coffee house in Chicago and see Muddy Waters play. In fact, according to Abrahamson, if you arrived early enough, you would be sitting only a few feet from the stage and the great man himself. Abrahamson’s presentation was lively and immensely entertaining with stories illustrated by songs, blues riffs and photographs.

The walls of the Veteran’s Room were adorned with original pictures that Abrahamson had taken of these greats. The book includes many more photos that Abrahamson said he just took because he had a camera. Now these images have become an important part of preserving the history of a fundamental genre that has influenced American music far beyond its modest commercial success. Abrahamson demonstrated how some rock bands, such as the Rolling Stones and Cream, took blues and popularized it. Unfortunately, the most influential blues performers did not achieve the popular notice and financial success of the acts they inspired.   

Abrahamson, a Chicago native, was born in the Austin neighborhood but spent a lot of time in Oak Park because his grandfather owned a furrier.  In his youth he tried his hand at music promotion but although it was artistically fascinating, it didn’t the bills. He went on to write and compose music, winning a Grammy in 1977 for Bus Driver, which Muddy Waters performed.  A blues aficionado with artistic talent of his own, he has written original plays (The New Orleans Jazz Funeral of Stella Brooks) and even a children’s musical (Broccoli Blvd).  More information about Abrahamson and the book can be found at www.inthebellyoftheblues.com.  The book is part of the library’s permanent collection.

Join the discussion on social media!

Helen Kossler

Helen Kossler loves reading aloud to her grandchildren and is not ashamed to admit that she almost always likes the book better than the movie. She has been buying, borrowing, begging and stealing (well—not...