On Gut-Bucket Blues

Guitar Fingerboard. Photo credit: Mike Foster Guitar Fingerboard. Photo credit: Mike Foster

Parents can relate to Geraldine Smith who, in the 1950s, warned her daughter about “gut-bucket blues,” a genre of music that Mrs. Smith deemed inappropriate.  Children (even those who have grown up) can relate to Donna Cunningham who, from the 1950s to the present, followed her own inclination (not her mother’s) and enjoyed a music genre that would produce widespread acclaim and record sales for Blues musicians, including many with ties to Arkansas’ Delta Lowlands (also known as Arkansas River Lowlands).

The wisdom for parents:  Parent as you believe and raise your children well.  Even if you doubt their music tastes, you will still raise a fine daughter or son, maybe even a future educator and author.

The wisdom for all of us:  Follow your heart and you just might reach the hearts of many others.  See Mrs. Cunningham’s brief biography below as well as the source cited for the quote.


Donna Cunningham is a retired Social Studies teacher in the Pine Bluff School District. She is also co-author, along with her son Jimmy Cunningham, Jr., of Delta Music and Film: Jefferson County and the Lowlands.  In dedicating the book to Mrs. Cunningham’s mother, Geraldine Smith, the co-authors stated:

“We hope for her sake that Z.Z. Hill is not in heaven playing ‘Down Home Blues’ too loudly.”

Since this post refers to Blues artists from the Delta, I will mention Big Bill Broonzy (born in Altheimer, Arkansas, and raised in Pine Bluff) and Sippie Wallace (born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, with a childhood move to Texas).  There are many, many more artists that the book covers.


Cunningham, Jimmy C., Jr., and Cunningham, Donna.  Delta Music and Film: Jefferson County and the Lowlands.  Mt. Pleasant, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2015.

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