Blues historian Cliff E. Jones presented "The Arkansas Delta Blues" at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 22, at The David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History in the Fulbright College of Arts and Science. The lecture was held in conjunction with The Juke Joint Project: An Exhibit, which is currently on display in the Pryor Center atrium. The exhibit is cosponsored by the Pryor Center and The Music Education Initiative.
The Arkansas Delta blues commands an important role in the development of American music. The region maintained a vibrant blues scene from the 1920s until the 1970s. Early blues musicians such as Son House, Robert Johnson, Johnny Shines and Howlin' Wolf played in the juke joints and cafes throughout the area. Folklorist Alan Lomax recorded St. Francis County blues musicians during his Southern Journey expedition in 1959 and chronicled these experiences in his classic work, The Land Where the Blues Began. During the following decades, many of the musicians passed and music changed, but the stories of these legendary artists and their significant cultural contributions remain strong.
In a conversation with Rex Nelson, Jones said, "Mississippi has done a great job preserving and promoting its blues music history. It has a trail of historical markers, festivals, magazines and academic conferences. But the Arkansas Delta also was home to a vibrant blues scene from the 1920s until the 1970s. That history is still alive but scarce. We need to support all efforts to record, document and perform Arkansas blues. Jones' presentation will highlight select Arkansas connections to the blues and share the accounts of those who witnessed the performances and frequented the venues.
Jones serves as deputy director at the Delta Center for Economic Development at Arkansas State University. He began his career as executive assistant to the chancellor and adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Jones then served as a founding faculty member and department chair and later dean of arts and technology at Cy-Fair College in Texas. He returned to Arkansas in 2008, working as vice chancellor for academics at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville. He then served as senior vice chancellor for learning and instruction at Arkansas State University Mid-South.
Jones received his B.S.B.A and M.P.A. degrees from the U of A and his Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of Texas at Austin.