September, 2015 E-News
One trait shared by both the humanist and music enthusiast is that special appreciation in uncovering a unique cultural artifact in their own backyard. This is especially true in Ohio, where many of our cultural contributions remain unknown or under appreciated (at least according to Ohioans), especially compared to the adulation showered upon places located on the East or West coasts. Recent developments have begun to address this imbalance, with historians and archival record labels scouring the Midwest for previously undiscovered gems. Some of the best collections- think Numero Group’s fantastic Boddie Recording Company: Cleveland, Ohio – present detailed histories of the artists, producers, and club owners that made this music possible. Matthew Donahue of Bowling Green State University contributes to this uncovering with his very readable book I’ll Take You There: An Oral and Photographic History of the Hines Farm Blues Club.
Hosting household names such as B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Count Basie, and Otis Redding, along with countless local acts, Hines Farm Blues Club became an important destination on the early Blues circuit. The club was more than just a music venue. From motorcycle races to Negro League baseball, the Hines Farm Blues Club became a central entertainment hub for Toledo’s African American community. By conducting interviews with early patrons and musicians, Donahue presents a very personal history of the club. One gets a feel for the hard work and ingenuity of founders Frank and Sarah Hines, as well as how local and national issues surrounding race, place and identity shaped the development of the club itself and the experience of patrons. Overall, Donahue portrays a community as multifaceted as the people that belonged to it.
Donahue has also assembled a number of historic photos that are included in the book which when taken with Donahue’s text, present an immediate history of their own. Photos of the Atomic Pirates Motorcycle Club are a personal favorite, especially those featuring stunt riders. Of course, the musicians and many longtime patrons are included here as well.
Donahue does a very nice job presenting the feel of the place, which is in many ways the most difficult job of any historian. In this way, he has done much to uncover a club that could otherwise be lost to history. In this way, he does a great service to the Midwest music scene and Ohio culture in general. It is my hope that more can be done to preserve the legacy of the Hines Farm Blues Club and the music once found within. In I’ll Take Your There, Donahue has contributed an important first step.
Matthew Donahue is also a member of the Ohio Humanities Speakers Bureau, offering presentations on a variety of popular culture topics, including the Hines Farm Blues Club. More information on all 33 speakers is available on the Speakers Bureau page.