Elijah Wald - "Jelly Roll Blues: Censored Songs & Hidden Histories"

Apr 15 2024 - 7:00pm


Join us on Monday, April 15th at 7pm at Pegasus Books Downtown for a night of stories and song, as we celebrate the launch of acclaimed music historian and musician Elijah Wald's Jelly Roll Blues: Censored Songs & Hidden Histories. Wald will read from and discuss his new biography of queer black jazz legend Jelly Roll Morton—a project 20 years in the making, paired with songs performed live. Books will be available for purchase & signing. 

About the book:

Bestselling music historian Elijah Wald follows the legendary New Orleans pianist Jelly Roll Morton on a journey through the hidden worlds and forbidden songs of early blues and jazz, inspired by a long-censored oral history recorded by Jelly Roll in 1938 with Alan Lomax.

Morton became nationally famous as a composer and bandleader in the 1920s, but got his start twenty years earlier, entertaining customers in the city’s famous bordellos and singing rough blues in Gulf Coast honky-tonks. His 1938 oral history was censored for more than 60 years, before it was finally released by the Library of Congress in the early aughts--his most distinctive songs hidden away for the greater part of a century. Those songs inspired Wald to explore how much other history had been locked away and censored. Full of previously unpublished lyrics and stories, Jelly Roll Blues paints a new and surprising picture of the dawn of American popular music, and the life of a singular, radical artist.


“I grew up on the old blues: heard it, felt it, danced to it, but a lot of people didn’t hear the real stuff, because somebody else was controlling the narrative. This book is searching out those voices, keeping them from being lost, and helping to transfer that ancestral information to a new generation.”

—Taj Mahal, three-time Grammy-winning blues musician

"Elijah Wald has done it again. Both a compelling study of blues pioneer and musical genius Jelly Roll Morton’s roots and song craft as well as a meticulously researched history of early twentieth-century, ostensibly ‘taboo’ popular music culture, Jelly Roll Blues offers a clear-eyed exploration of Black modernist era vernacular music that pushed the boundaries…”

—Daphne Brooks, professor of African American Studies, American Studies, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Music at Yale University and author of Liner Notes for the Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound

Elijah Wald is one of our most skilled and affable guides to the hidden, governing currents within the long stream of American music, and with Jelly Roll Blues he navigates one of the most important: the erotic, provocative, and just plain dirty songs at the heart of jazz and blues…A hot and essential read.”

—Ann Powers, NPR Music Critic and author of Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black & White, Body and Soul in American Music

About the author:

Elijah Wald is a musician and author of over a dozen books, including Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, The Dozens: A History of Rap’s Mama, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ’n’ Roll: An Alternative History of Popular Music, and the bestselling Dylan Goes Electric! He has a PhD in ethnomusicology and sociolinguistics and a Grammy for production and liner notes. He lives in Philadelphia.


Event address: 
2349 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704
Jelly Roll Blues: Censored Songs and Hidden Histories By Elijah Wald Cover Image
ISBN: 9780306831409
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Hachette Books - April 2nd, 2024

Event Category: 
Shattuck Location