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Adam Gussow (born April 3, 1958, New York, United States) is an American scholar, memoirist, and blues harmonica player. He is currently an associate professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.
Life and career
Gussow spent twelve years (1986–1998) working the streets of Harlem and the international club and festival circuit with Mississippi-born bluesman Sterling Magee as a duo called Satan and Adam. Along with Canadian harmonicist Carlos del Junco, Gussow was one of the first amplified blues players, in the late 1980s, to make over blows a key element of his stylistic approach, adapting Howard Levy's innovations in a way that helped usher in a new generation of over blow masters such as Jason Ricci and Chris Michalek. According to a reviewer for American Harmonica Newsletter, Gussow's playing is characterized by "[t]echnical mastery and innovative brilliance that comes along but once in a generation." When Satan and Adam were honored with a cover story in Living Blues magazine in 1996, Gussow was, according to the editor, "the first white blues musician to be so prominently spotlighted in the magazine’s 26-year history."(David Nelson (1996-09/10), Living Blues, #129)
Raised in suburban Congers, New York, educated at Princeton University (B.A. 1979, Ph.D. 2000) and Columbia University (M.A. 1983), Gussow is the son of Alan Gussow, an artist/environmentalist, and Joan Dye Gussow, an author, nutrition educator, and organic farmer. He has an atypical pedigree for a blues musician. In Mister Satan’s Apprentice: A Blues Memoir (1998), he credits his career to the mentorship of two older African American performers: Nat Riddles, a Bronx-born harmonica player who had worked with Odetta, Larry Johnson, and others; and Magee, a guitarist/percussionist with whom Gussow teamed up after a chance afternoon jam session on Harlem’s 125th Street. As Satan and Adam, Magee and Gussow recorded three albums during their years as a touring act: Harlem Blues (1991), which was nominated for a W. C. Handy Award as "Traditional Blues Album of the Year"; Mother Mojo (1993); and Living on the River (1996). A brief extract of Magee and Gussow performing on 125th Street was included in U2's Rattle and Hum documentary. Gussow has produced or co-produced two additional Satan and Adam albums: Word on the Street (2008) and Back in the Game (2011). In August 2010, Gussow released his first album under his own name, Kick And Stomp. Recorded in Oxford, Mississippi, it features Gussow in a one-man band setting—singing, blowing amplified harmonica, stomping on a foot drum, and clanking on a tambourine pedal.
Gussow's other musical credits include five months with the bus-and-truck tour of Big River; commercials for Coca-Cola, Nestea, and Swatch; and two decades as a harmonica instructor at the Guitar Study Center in New York and Jon Gindick's harmonica jam camps. In 2010,2011 & 2012, Gussow (along with business partner & entrepreneur Jeff Silverman) organized and produced Hill Country Harmonica, a teaching-intensive event at Foxfire Ranch in Waterford, Mississippi with an evening concert component. Blues harmonica players and teachers at the first two events have included Billy Branch, Sugar Blue, Jason Ricci, Mitch Kashmar, Phil Wiggins, Annie Raines, Jumpin' Johnny Sansone, Charlie Sayles, Billy Gibson, Jimi Lee, and many others.
In addition to Mister Satan's Apprentice, which received the "Keeping the Blues Alive" Award from the Blues Foundation in Memphis, Gussow is the author of Seems Like Murder Here: Southern Violence and the Blues Tradition (2002) and Journeyman's Road: Modern Blues Lives from Faulkner’s Mississippi to Post-9/11 New York (2007). Gussow’s essays and reviews have appeared in Southern Cultures, African American Review, Harper's, The Village Voice, American Literature, and many other publications.
As of February 22, 2007 Gussow has been running YouTube tutorials aimed at passing on his proficiency and knowledge in the harmonica to those who are interested in learning to play blues harmonica. Gussow from his first lesson says, "I'm tired of this mystification, I'm going to teach you all I know." As of February 2011 Gussow has uploaded 302 videos.