Friday, February 21, 2020

Blues Researcher Anne M. Evans Passes at 103

Anne M. Evans (née Kunze) was born November 2, 1916 and died Feb. 7, 2020 in Millington, TN. She was 103 years old.

She grew up in Medford, Massachusetts, and lived in other New England locations before moving to Savannah with David Evans Sr. around 1974. She had only a high school education and no experience or training in field research, other than a bit of prior amateur folklore collecting in New England, and no real knowledge of blues and folk music or any particular interest in it, but she was in the South and wanted to know if she could somehow help her son, David Evans Jr. with his research. He suggested Blind Willie McTell, since his life was little known, at the time, other than that he had grown up in Statesboro not far from Savannah. Her son also suggested that she investigate around Thomson farther to the North, where McTell said he had been born. Anne and David Evans Sr., set out to find information, first asking around in Savannah, where they turned up a few memories of him. 

Anne also collected other folklore there, including folktales that her son used in a publication. Then the couple went to Statesboro and met and interviewed several informants who knew McTell, including McTell’s half-brother Robert Owens. 

Anne M. Evans “in the field” ca. 1977
with Georgia bluesman Embry Raines at his sister’s house

In the Thomson area, they found McTell’s cousin and other family members and Kate McTell Seabrooks in nearby Wrens. The relatives in Thomson led her to McTell’s burial site, which has since become well known and often visited. She also found active musicians Ira “Tiny” Coney and Embry Raines and some excellent church singers in Clyo, Savannah, and Pin Point. And she located McTell’s old partner Blind Log, following a tip provided by Pete Lowry. 

David Evans Sr. passed away in Savannah on Sept. 11, 1976, and Anne continued doing fieldwork for a while. In fact, she became quite good friends with Kate McTell, who also lost her husband around the same time. In 1975, her son began to follow up on her work, re-interviewing many of the informants and finding a few new ones, but she did the bulk of the basic work. 

David Evans Jr. published a preliminary version of the McTell research in 1980 in an essay in the booklet notes to Atlanta Blues: 1933, which won a Grammy nomination for “Best Album Notes” (shared with Bruce Bastin, who also contributed to the booklet). He also published shorter versions of the research in other album notes. 

I’d estimate that up to 75% of what the world knows about McTell’s life is due directly or indirectly to her efforts. (You wouldn’t know this from Michael Gray’s “biography,” where he convert’s McTell’s life into a travelogue of his own “voyage of discovery” - using, of course, the road map that her research had largely laid out.) In addition to making a mark in blues research, Anne Evans also published a number of children’s short stories and wrote several unpublished children’s novels in various historical settings. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this. I've shared it with several.
    Best to ya!