May 17, 2010 Photo Book of American Music During Great Depression Subject of Discussion

“Hard Luck Blues” Offers More Than 200 Photos from Farm Security Administration

Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
Public Contact: Public contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221

With an appreciation for the amateur and the local, Farm Security Administration photographers depicted a range of musicians sharing the regular music of everyday life, from informal songs in migrant work camps and farmers’ homes, at barn dances and on street corners to organized performances at church revivals, dance halls and community festivals. Captured across the nation from the Northeast to the Southwest, the images document the last generation of musicians who learned to play without the influence of recorded sound, as well as some of the pioneers of Chicago’s R&B scene and the first years of amplified instruments.

More than 200 of those photos are collected in Rich Remsberg’s “Hard Luck Blues: Roots Music from the Great Depression (University of Illinois Press in association with the Library of Congress, 2010). Remsberg will discuss and sign his work on Wednesday, June 2, at noon in the West Dining Room on the sixth floor of the Library of Congress’ James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. This Books & Beyond program of the Center for the Book is co-sponsored with the Library’s American Folklife Center, the Prints and Photographs Division and the Publishing Office. The event is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

The best visual representation of American roots music performance during the Depression era, the images in “Hard Luck Blues” feature photographs by Jack Delano, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shahn, Marion Post Wolcott and others.

The Prints and Photographs Division collections contain more than 164,000 of these black-and-white images, and more than 160,000 of them are accessible on the Library’s website at

Remsberg is an Emmy Award-winning image researcher and a documentary photographer. His credits include “Woody Guthrie: Ain't Got No Home” and “Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison,” as well as other PBS programs and independent films.

“Hard Luck Blues” is also the subject of a discussion on Facebook. The new Books & Beyond Book Club is available at Here readers can discuss books, the authors of which have appeared or will appear in this series. The site also offers links to webcasts of these events and asks readers to talk about what they have seen and heard on those webcasts.

The Center for the Book ( was established by Congress in 1977 “to use the resources and prestige of the Library of Congress to promote books, reading, literacy and libraries.” With its many educational programs that reach readers of all ages, through its support of the National Book Festival and through its dynamic state centers in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Center for the Book has developed a nationwide network of organizational partners dedicated to promoting the wonders and benefits of reading. The center also oversees the new website, with its exclusive “Exquisite Corpse Adventure” serialized story.


PR 10-108
ISSN 0731-3527