Illustrator William Stout Draws 100 Blues Legends

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Louis Jordan, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'

In 1980, the cartoonist R. Crumb released Heroes of the Blues, a set of beautiful, illustrated trading cards that catalogs 36 of the greatest bluesmen ever. Now, a new book by writer and illustrator William Stout, Legends of the Blues, pays tribute to Crumb with drawings of even more heroes. Stout, who researched the book meticulously, included drawings and one page biographies of artists like Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, and Sonny Boy Williamson — some of his favorite musicians. "It's just the greatest music ever produced," Stout says. "And it's completely American."

See what else Stout has to say about the blues in the slideshow below.

Robert Johnson, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'
Robert Johnson, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'

"I wanted to go deeper than just representing a photograph that I found. I wanted the portraits to tell something about each artist. So there are visual references to either their music or their life. In the case of Robert Johnson, his very short life, with the skulls in his eyes."

( Courtesy Abrams ComicArts )
Blind Willie Johnson, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'
Blind Willie Johnson, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'

"He recorded the song ‘Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground,’ which is one of the songs that’s on the Voyager spacecraft. They have 27 samples of music. It was chosen as an expression of human loneliness. Ry Cooder, the great guitarist, described this song as the most soulful and transcendent piece in all American music." 

 

( Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts )
Skip James, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'
Skip James, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'

“I love Skip James’s music. His singing [and] his playing [are] so elegant.”

( Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts )
Willie Dixon, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'
Willie Dixon, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'

"Willie Dixon is the author of the Great American Blues Songbook…. Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson — almost all of their hits are written by Willie Dixon.”

( Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts )
Sonny Boy Williamson II, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'
Sonny Boy Williamson II, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'

“I bought the [Sonny Boy Williamson and The Yardbirds] album, took it home, put it on my cheap little record player. The music that poured out of my speakers — it felt like: 'This is the music that’s been waiting for you all your life.'” 

( Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts )
Howlin' Wolf, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'
Howlin' Wolf, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'

“[This illustration] is a little indication of the sort of hoodoo character that Wolf created around himself — the bigger than life Howlin’ Wolf. It’s an indication of the spookiness of some of his music.”

( Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts )
Louis Jordan, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'
Louis Jordan, as depicted by William Stout in 'Legends of the Blues'

“He was the hardest biography to write because my first draft for him was 8 pages long, and I couldn’t figure out how to cut it down. He is the most accomplished entertainer in the entire book…. The top black recording artist of all time in terms of weeks at Number 1.”

( Courtesy of Abrams ComicArts )
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