Blues music has plenty of fans on the Midcoast: Rockland hosts a weekly series of live shows, as well as the annual North Atlantic Blues Festival; and Belfast is home to the state’s contender in the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge, the Juke Rockets having won that distinction two years in a row.

The genre’s long, admittedly non-local, past gets less Midcoast engagement, but that deficit will be addressed Saturday afternoon, Nov. 23, at the Old Professor’s Bookshop, 99 Main St. The downtown store’s monthly Shop Talk at 3 p.m. is dubbed The Blues: A Musical Odyssey.

The talk will be delivered by the store’s Richard Brown, who promises a survey of the development of the blues in a 90-minute presentation filled with multiple audio illustrations. Although he ran a record store on the West Coast for many years, Brown’s examples will be delivered via CDs, which he is helping introduce to the Belfast shop.

“There will be a lot of listening. The talk’s essentially a survey, followed by a half hour or so of questions,” Brown said a week before the talk.

Listening has been Brown’s approach to a life dedicated to music; his Berkley, Calif., record shop specialized in jazz and, while he once played a little alto sax, “I’m a better appreciator than a player.” Shop Talk attendees are treated to an environment that makes it easy to appreciate the series’ offerings, as the talks take place in a living room above the storefront.

“It’s a nice ambiance for listening, and George serves hors d’oeuvres,” said Brown.

Shop owner and namesake George Siscoe taught at Cal Tech, MIT and in the meteorology department at UCLA, so most of the Shop Talks focus on science. Brown said he adds “the art and jazz thing” several times a year; his last talk was on jazz.

Which is not to say The Blues: A Musical Odyssey is non-academic. Brown plans to pack a lot of history and analysis into the talk, which will begin with the African-influenced precedents of the genre.

“The earliest example, although the recording is from the 1950s, is a field recording of Texas prisoners singing a work song. Call and response is the proto-blues form,” he said.

The Mississippi Blues Trail has a marker in Dockery, Miss., labeling the sometime home of Charley Patton the “Birthplace of the Blues?” Question mark notwithstanding, Brown will begin his journey with Patton and Geeshie Wiley, who were purveying the Delta blues years before the better-known Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul at the “Cross Road.”

“We’ll travel from the Mississippi Delta ‘up the river’ to the Chicago blues, with a stop in Memphis because some transitional things happened there, then back towards the West Coast, following the development of the music,” Brown said.

A special focus of his talk will be Skip James, who recorded with Wisconsin’s influential, and short-lived, Paramount Records and then dropped out of sight until the blues/folk revival of the 1960s.

“He’s not at all a known quantity, but was a big influence on Robert Johnson … and then there was Cream [which recorded James’ “I’m So Glad”]! He’s the lynchpin of the talk,” said Brown.

In addition to introducing Shop Talk attendees to such blues royalty, Brown will talk about the structure of the music, attempting to “come to a definition of what is the blues, including 12-bar blues, chord progressions, flattened notes and the African influence,” he said.

Brown also will offer examples of where the blues odyssey has led in the 21st century. He tends to “listen at the outskirts” rather than attend live shows, but he has had his close encounters with current practitioners of the truly American form.

“On the first anniversary of my store, I hired Robert Cray and Curtis Salgado, on harmonica, to play — $200 for an afternoon! That was before Cray got to Mercury Records,” he said.

What kept Brown’s California store afloat was catering to collectors of jazz, blues and classical records, but the whole business changed when people started selling their platters on eBay.

“I used to travel all over the states for the Japanese collectors, who were voracious,” he said.

After running the store for 21 years, Brown left the record business — and the records — behind and moved to Maine, landing in Belfast in 2000.

“I wanted to relocate to the East Coast, and Belfast is an amazing city,” he said.

There is no admission for Brown’s The Blues: A Musical Odyssey Shop Talk at the Old Professor's Bookshop. For more information, call 338-2006 or visit and its Facebook page.