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'O Susanna' – salvaged 1960s illustrations

I was nosing around my parents' bookshelves when I went over for dinner last week, and pulled out this rather beautiful book.

It is a 1960-published music book called O Susanna – "a sampler of the richest of American folk music: blues, ballads, jazz, spirituals" by the American jazz critic Rudi Blesh (1899-1985). My mum and dad had no memory of where it came from and pushed it into my hand as I left. How nice. I love it...

Rudi Blesh was also, incongruously, the author of Buster Keaton's biography as well as founder of a record label for ageing jazz musicians. The illustrator, the excellently named Horst Geldmacher, is harder to trace. The only record I have found of him online is with reference to this book. If anyone knows anything more about him, do get in touch – I'd love to see some more of his colourful, graphic drawings... 

The font is fantastic, as well. Or perhaps it was really a copy of Blesh's handwriting, as it is intended to depict.

It is worth a read too: "Here is a book of American folk music that is unusual in several respects. For one thing: it includes jazz. Jazz has never been a favourite of the folk music experts. The trouble seems to be that it is 'urban, a fancy way of swaying that it originated in a city. Therefore, it cannot be folk music. If you ask these people why, they answer patiently, 'Folk music is country music.' I've never agreed with that idea..."

Isn't it amazing? I particularly love the illustrated discography instructions.

If you like the illustrations of this era, there's a great selection of different styles to browse at the Fuel Your Illustration blog, and you might also enjoy two previous posts here, one about a fantastic Fiell book of 1960s lifestyle illustrations, the other about the swirly, psychedelic drawings of Nigel Waymouth.

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