John (Henry) Hammond was a talent scout and producer responsible for discovering musicians such as Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Big Joe Turner, Bob Dylan and many others. In 1938, he produced a historical concert at Carnegie Hall called “From Spirituals to Swing,” and would feature many of the great African-American artists of the time. His autobiography, John Hammond On Record (Ridge Press, 1977) is an insightful history of American popular music stemming from Jazz to Rock n’ Roll. Popular music wouldn’t be what it is today without Hammond and I compare his legacy to that of John and Alan Lomax who are responsible for preserving African-American work songs, American folk traditions as well as the blues.
In 2011, I began teaching a Jazz, Blues and Rock history course at Heartland Community College in Normal, IL and had to research early folk and blues artists such as Charley Patton, “Mississippi” John Hurt, Son House, Bukka White, Lead Belly and “Blind Lemon Jefferson. When I arrived at Robert Johnson, I discovered a documentary entitled The Search For Robert Johnson. In this film, a blues musician sets out to uncover the myths surrounding Johnson’s life, career and legend. It turns out that this blues musician happens to be John Paul Hammond, who is John Henry Hammond’s son.
A couple of weeks ago when I was driving home from a gig, I tuned in to WGLT radio (89.1fm Central Illinois), to hear jazz and blues radio personality, Jon Norton on an extensive interview with John Paul Hammond. Like his father, Hammond apparently has cemented his name and legacy into rock and blues history. Check out this interview by Jon Norton and sampling of Hammond’s music here.
WGLT (89.1fm) is a public radio station based out of Normal, IL and is connected to Illinois State University. It broadcasts in Peoria, IL as well (103.5fm). They specialize in news, jazz, blues, acoustic folk music and much more. They are available online at wglt.org. You can listen to live streaming, around the clock jazz, blues and acoustic channels, interview archives and some of the best news and journalism that Central Illinois has to offer. A significant portion of WGLT’s operating budget comes from the general public throughout the area. Please consider donating. It’s worth it.