Back in 1971, a couple of young college kids, film students named Ted Reed and Tim Treadway, drove through America’s South to find and record some of the last living blues legends who were inspiring much of the rocking blues of Sixties.
No longer relegated to juke joints in the deep south or urban centers, the blues were exploding in popular music and culture, an on the nation’s airways of the time. The backbone of many stars of that rock era — Led Zepplin, Cream and the Rolling Stones — adopted the feel, the sounds and cadence of the deep south.
On that journey five decades ago, the 20-something pair recorded — on black and white film — some of the very roots of that particular brand of American popular music. With Treadway in tow, Reed traveled from Boston to Memphis, Tennessee, and Clarksdale, Mississippi, and spent several weeks on their search.
The result, a 27-minute, 16mm film, “Thinking Out Loud,” was shown at a handful of festivals and then relegated to a storage facility.
Five decades later, Reed, a multiple award-winning documentary filmmaker who now works out of Gloucester, rediscovered the old film during an office move and realized the value of the archival black and white film.
It led him to drive the same, identical route he had taken years before to see the changes that had taken place in the heartland of the blues during the ensuing five decades.
The result this time was “The Blues Trails Revisited,” which will take centerstage at The Cabot on Saturday night. The film is part of the Fall Blues Festival that night that includes performances by
As on his original trip, Reed was again searching for the spirit of the blues in the cotton fields of the Delta, along the highways that crisscrossed the region, and the ghosts of the well-known and obscure blues artists he had originally sought out.
What he also discovered on his return trip was a new respect for the local blues that had been overlooked in the South of 50 years ago.
“Rock fans, mostly white, from all the world, raised on music adopted from rural black communities, were flocking to that wellspring in record numbers. In many states, museums and historic markers had sprung up to guide a steadily growing caravan of international tourists,” Reed says on his website.
“The Blues Trail Revisited,” includes interviews with authors, historians and hospitality entrepreneurs, musicians and art dealers, state officials, museum managers, and travelers from Arkansas to Australia detail significant changes from the 1970s to 2021. On the return trip, Reed also hooked up with his collaborator on the film for the first time in all those years and together they reflected on all that had passed in a half-century.