The first English-language magazine devoted (almost) wholly to blues, Blues Unlimited, was founded as The Journal of the Blues Appreciation Society in Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex, England, in 1963. Society co-founders Simon Napier and Mike Leadbitter enlisted former Bexhill schoolmate John Broven and a crew of leading experts and collectors from Europe and America to publish a wealth of pioneering articles and discographies. BU covered all eras of blues but distinguished itself especially with its attention to postwar blues and the ongoing activity in Chicago, Louisiana, Texas, and elsewhere, in contrast to the prewar emphasis in most early books on blues. Napier was listed as editor from the beginning, with Leadbitter soon designated R&B Editor, and, by 1965, co-editor. Leadbitter and others also introduced many blues readers to cajun music, which BU viewed as a close counterpart to blues. With a network of enthusiasts who mailed in articles and letters, augmented by their own research trips to the States, the BU staff documented the blues with dedication and in discographical depth. After Leadbitter’s sudden death in 1974, Napier bowed out and an editorial committee of Mike Rowe, Bill Greensmith, John Broven and Bez Turner took over and continued the magazine’s proud tradition of quality blues scholarship. As of its final issue (#148/149, Winter 1987), the committee consisted of Rowe, Greensmith and Tony Russell. Many of the early articles from BU, along with some previously unpublished material, were compiled in the 1971 Hanover book Nothing But the Blues, edited by Leadbitter.

–Jim O’Neal