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This past week I successfully defended and submitted my master’s thesis on Snoozer Quinn. I am delighted… I have been researching Snoozer for years, and there were many false starts as I searched for a way to talk about his music.
It’s been very easy (for me) to get caught up in historical research and let the actual writing go undone… for years I did just that. Hours spent with a microfilm machine reading old newspapers and journals, listening through headphones to oral histories with long-dead musicians, chasing rumors of possible recording sessions, interviewing friends and family members in rural Louisiana towns… I’ve scrupulously been documenting a chronology of events in his life and gathering interesting photos, newspaper ads, articles, etc. of him and his associates. Snoozer is such an elusive figure, that every time I found a mention of him I felt a thrill that kept me going for a few more weeks at a time. I have been incredibly passionate about building Snoozer’s biography and I cannot wait to tell his story in book form.
But for a thesis in musicology, a big component must be about the music, itself. I could not have finished without the help of two players. New Orleans guitarist John Rankin patiently helped me learn to listen and really hear Snoozer’s playing. He pointed out to me aspects that were unusual. (We had a good time presenting together at the Louisiana State Museum in 2010.) After figuring out what sections of music I wanted to use to illustrate my points, I searched for someone to help me with the transcriptions. Serendipity brought me Chip Henderson, a guitarist and a teacher at Belmont Unversity and Tennessee State University in Nashville who also has a passionate interest in Snoozer. I am so grateful to Chip for his transcription work and for helping me to further explicate the music.
And I am very proud and excited about what we’ve come up with.
The thesis has been submitted to ProQuest for copyright and publishing. I am not sure what’s next (when it will be available online, for example). But in the meantime, I am turning my attention to this website and to publishing opportunities for sections of the thesis, as well as expanded research. The biography was so long that I had to scrap some sections for the thesis, and I would love to see them in print elsewhere. First up: I am writing an article on the Blanchard Orchestra for a future issue of The Jazz Archivist.
In the front matter for my thesis, I acknowledged a lot of people who’ve helped me along the way. The list is long… after all, I’ve been working on this a long time. Regretfully, I am sure I forgot to thank some people.
But something occurred to me as I wrote that acknowledgment: it’s astonishing how very helpful and interested guitar players, as a collective group, are when it comes to talking about other guitar players. Jazz lovers, too — I am heartwarmed by how generous the community of record collectors, jazz historians and jazz buffs has been with their knowledge. I have had access to some amazingly famous, talented and very busy people — a few of my of my favorites are Les Paul, Leo Kottke, Mundell Lowe, Marty Grosz, Vince Giordano and Jody Stecher. It’s been an honor talking with these folks and so many more.