on Blu-ray and DVD
from Film Movement Classics!
"Robert Mugge's "Deep Blues" is a movie no blues lover, no popular music aficionado, and no devotee of American culture and folkways should miss. It's a genuine document, deep and earthy; a peek into our national soul."
- Michael Wilmington, Los Angeles Times
||DEEP BLUES remastered in 4K, re-released to theaters in commemoration of its 30th Anniversary, and released on Blu-ray & HD digital for the first time ever.
||DEEP BLUES named one of the Top 25 Music DVDs of All Time by Rolling Stone Magazine.
||DEEP BLUES named an Essential Southern Documentary by the Oxford American.
||DEEP BLUES, HELLHOUNDS ON MY TRAIL and LAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI JUKES given week-long run to help open the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland.
||DEEP BLUES given week-long premiere at Lincoln Center in New York City.
|| DEEP BLUES given festival premiere at Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
||Robert Mugge given Keeping the Blues Alive in Film Award from the Blues Foundation in Memphis for DEEP BLUES.
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In 1990, commissioned by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, veteran music film director Robert Mugge and renowned music scholar Robert Palmer ventured deep into the heart of the North Mississippi Hill Country and Mississippi Delta to seek out the best rural blues acts currently working. Starting on Beale Street in Memphis, they headed south to the juke joints, lounges, front porches, and parlors of Holly Springs, Greenville, Clarksdale, Bentonia, and Lexington. Along the way, they visited celebrated landmarks and documented talented artists cut off from the mainstream of the recording industry. The resulting film expresses reverence for the rich musical history of the region, spotlighting local performers, soon to be world-renowned, thanks in large part to the film, and demonstrating how the blues continues to thrive in new generations of gifted musicians.
FEATURING THE MUSIC OF
Junior Kimbrough - R.L. Burnside - Jessie Mae Hemphill - Big Jack Johnson
Roosevelt “Booba” Barnes - Jack Owens & Bud Spires - Lonnie Pitchford
Booker T. Laury - Wade Walton - Jessie Mae’s Fife And Drum Band
Robert Mugge with Jack Owens during the filming of Deep Blues.
Photo credit: Axel Küstner
by Robert Mugge
(written in 2003; updated in 2021)
In the years after their creation, films take on lives of their own, far beyond
what their makers intended. Like children, they grow up, leave home, and
engage in relationships their parents could never have imagined, much less
Of the films I’ve directed, none has more clearly demonstrated this principle
than Deep Blues, originally completed and released in 1991. Scene for
scene, I recall decisions made and actions taken – not only by me, but by
executive producer Dave Stewart, producers Eileen Gregory and John
Stewart, writer and music director Robert Palmer, line producer Robert
Maier, cinematographers Erich Roland and Christopher Li, music recording
technicians William Barth and Johnny Rosen, and music mixer Lee Manning
– that gave the film its scope, its structure, its rhythms, its textures, and
more. And yet, today, I also can watch Deep Blues the way I assume others
do: as something separate from all of us; as a window into a world that now
exists more as fading memory than as continuing fact (that is, the world of
Frankly, I consider it a blessing that a film can take on a life of its own
because, since we made it, most of the better-known artists who performed
for us – R. L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Big Jack
Johnson, Roosevelt “Booba” Barnes, Jack Owens, Bud Spires, Booker T.
Laury, Lonnie Pitchford, Frank Frost, Sam Carr, and Napolean Strickland –
have died, as has blues deejay Early “The Soul Man” Wright. So, too, has
author, journalist, and musician Robert Palmer, the musical and spiritual
guide for our project.
As we all know, no one among us can stop the clock, which is one very good
reason for having the blues. Yet, every so often, we at least can freeze a
moment in time via vinyl, celluloid, or more recent forms of digital audio
and video, so that our children’s children can see what we saw, hear what
we heard, know what we knew, and maybe even feel what we felt,
regarding great American artists, whether widely known or not. In that
respect, the moments we captured in Deep Blues are very special indeed,
which is why the film itself lives on, even as so many who worked on it, or
appeared in it, are slipping away.
That the film exists at all is thanks entirely to the generosity of executive
producer Dave Stewart, who paid for this project out of his own pocket,
declaring that he wished to “give something back” to traditional blues
artists who had inspired him when he was starting out, and who have
continued to inspire him ever since. Moreover, on this, the thirtieth
anniversary of the film’s release, he has underwritten its remastering in 4K
video so that our new distributor, Film Movement, can “relaunch it” in
accordance with current distribution standards.
On such an occasion, perhaps I should clear up two longtime
misconceptions. First, from the beginning, executive producer Dave Stewart
and producer Eileen Gregory intended Deep Blues to be a film, which they
hired me to direct and edit, and Bob Palmer to write and narrate. The
notion that Bob was hired to record audio of Mississippi blues and then
produce a CD was simply a narrative device I devised in order to tie
together widely disparate scenes my crew and I were preparing to shoot
and record, and the CD Bob eventually did produce was merely an after-the-fact
soundtrack album derived from the crew’s recordings, though a a great
one, of which Bob and Dave could be proud. Second, the film was never
intended to be called Deep Blues. That came about late in the project,
because the producers and I could not agree on a title. Facing a deadline for
completion, I asked Bob if he would permit us to borrow the name of his
1981 book, and happily, he agreed. Of course, this also represented a logical
compromise, because the film, like Bob’s book before it, does reflect his
underlying belief that African-American musicians of the Deep South,
drawing upon their unique history and cultural heritage, produced the
deepest blues ever created, which was true of those who remained in
Mississippi, just as it was of those who migrated to Memphis, Chicago,
Detroit, St. Louis, Kansas City, and elsewhere.
In conclusion, origin stories aside, please know that we, as proud parents of
this newly remastered film, are pleased to share, still again, some
exceptionally deep and varied blues, and hope to continue doing so for
many years to come.