Robert Jones Is on a Mission to Keep the Blues Alive in Detroit

In celebration of WDET’s 70 years of programming, blues musician and historian Robert Jones takes listeners through the origin of the blues and shares a few of his favorite records from his days of hosting “Blues from the Lowlands” on 101.9 WDET.

Courtesy of Robert Jones
Courtesy of Robert Jones

“Blues from the Lowlands” holds a special place in the heart of blues lovers in metro Detroit. Hosted by award-winning blues musician, storyteller and reverend Robert Jones, the program delivered on the genre’s vast history and sound. 

“It started in the country blues and the formation of the blues going back to 1920 and beyond  then going on into modern day,” says Jones during his interview with CultureShift’s Ryan Patrick Hooper. “North Carolina Blues, Chicago Blues, Mississippi Delta Blues and also elements of gospel and spirituals. It was a pretty wide survey of African American traditional music.” 

Making its debut in 1984 and airing on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., Jones’ show cut into the depths of the music and its makers, providing a platform that entertained while educating listeners on its evolution. 

Jones’ appreciation of the art form led to fanfare and relationship-building with his audience. 

“One of the things I think made WDET an oasis for the folks who like that kind of music is that it was music that people didn’t hear anywhere else. [And it] eventually came to precede folks like us [Blues from the Lowlands] with Matt Watroba, which preceded Arkansas Traveler with [the late] Larry McDaniel,” says Jones.  “So you had about a seven hour block of traditional acoustic music that referenced all of America’s roots music in some way, shape or form.”  

“Blues from the Lowlands” aired for nearly twenty years. Jones resigned in 2003 to accept an appointment as Pastor of Sweet Kingdom Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit. 

Click the player above to hear Robert Jones break down the history of the blues and its significance in America’s cultural fabric with CultureShift’s Ryan Patrick Hooper.