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from the University of Minnesota Press


The emotional, epic story of James “Cornbread” Harris—a self-proclaimed “blessed dude” and one of Minneapolis’s most influential musicians

From the heart of the Minnesota blues comes the story of James “Cornbread” Harris Jr., the songwriter, pianist, and consummate bluesman whose seventy years making music helped to shape the Minneapolis Sound. “I am a blessed dude,” Cornbread tells Andrea Swensson, taking us along on his musical journey from a first “gig” entertaining his fellow soldiers during World War II to his subsequent years playing music for audiences across Minnesota. Following Cornbread’s extraordinary life story, Deeper Blues is a unique history of Minnesota music that evolves into a heartfelt tale of reconciliation and forgiveness, all to the tune of the legendary musician’s signature sound.


Cornbread’s career started in the 1950s, when he played with the Augie Garcia Quintet and cowrote their hit “Hi Ho Silver.” A tireless entertainer, he has been performing live ever since, influencing an entire generation of musicians credited with putting Minneapolis on the map in the 1980s—including his long-estranged son, Grammy-winning Rock and Roll Hall of Famer James “Jimmy Jam” Harris III. Going beyond the music, Deeper Blues turns toward family, atonement, and peace when Cornbread reunites with Jimmy Jam after a five-decade separation and they perform together on stage.


Through conversations with Cornbread, Jimmy Jam, and many others, Swensson reveals a story of perseverance and unfailing grace, a firsthand account of making music in the face of racism and segregation, and a hard-won acceptance of the personal sacrifices that are often required when dedicating one’s life to making music. As the man himself says, “All of my hardships ended up to be blessings.”


A rich mix of present-day anecdotes and historical vignettes, animated by voices from Cornbread’s life and the Twin Cities music scene, underscored by the bluesman’s original lyrics of heartache and hope, and featuring never-before-seen photographs of Cornbread and Jimmy Jam, Deeper Blues tells a singular story—one imprinted on the history, heart, and soul of the Minneapolis Sound.

Deeper Blues

Ships in early August 2024
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