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Black Swan Blues: Expanded 2021 edition.

By Paul Slade
 
 


This new, expanded edition of my book marks the 100th anniversary of Black Swan’s launch in 1921, and contains a wealth of new information. It’s the book that inspired Radiolab’s new podcast series The Vanishing of Harry Pace. Head over to its Amazon UK or Amazon US pages to buy your copy now!


In June 2020, I pitched Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad and Shima Oliaee on the idea of a podcast series telling the story of Black Swan Records and Harry Pace, its pioneering founder. I sent Jad a copy of my 2014 book on the subject, and I’m delighted to say that was enough to persuade him to take it on.
Jad and Shima are the team behind Radiolab’s stellar 2020 podcast series Dolly Parton’s America, so I knew the project would be in good hands. My contribution was to provide a couple of hundred pages of my own research – a document I called The Black Swan Bible – and answer as many as I could of Jad and Shima’s questions in a series of interviews. Black Swan and Harry are two subjects I never get to talk about as much as I’d like, so this whole process was a lot of fun for me. Not only that, but it gave me something positive to focus on through the long months of Britain’s Covid lockdown.
As 2021 approached, Jad and Shima went off to make the podcast episodes while I set about rewriting my book to incorporate all the new information we’d gathered. It’s only in the past year, for example, that I’ve seen the letters that passed between Harry and his mentor, WEB DuBois, not to mention the change of racial identity we find in his family’s census returns. I didn’t know in 2014 about the mystery surrounding Harry’s burial, nor that Black Swan clarinetist Garvin Bushell had been kidnapped by a besotted Louisville brothel keeper while on tour with the label’s revue. All those stories and more have been added to the 2021 edition.
One year on from that initial pitch, Radiolab’s five-part series, The Vanishing of Harry Pace, is available from your favourite podcast supplier, and my book’s new edition is up on Amazon. All this new activity on the Black Swan front means the 2009 website essay about the label which originally occupied this spot on PlanetSlade is now so thoroughly out of date that I’ve decided to retire it. That free essay’s served us well for the past 12 years, but now I’m asking people to go and buy the book instead.