Gayle Dean Wardlow (born August 31, 1940) is an American historian of the blues. He is particularly associated with research into the lives of musicians Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson and the historical development of the Delta blues, on which he is a leading world authority.
He was born in Freer, Texas, but was brought up from the age of 6 in Meridian, Mississippi. In his teens he began collecting Roy Acuff 78s, and originally began collecting blues records so as to exchange them for Acuff's. However, by about 1960 he had started collecting blues records for their own sake, and realised that very little biographical information existed on the musicians who had created them.
By 1963 Wardlow had begun researching a book on Delta blues musicians, mainly by making enquiries in black neighbourhoods, recording oral histories, anecdotes, songs, and remembrances. He interviewed Ishman Bracey, Charlie Patton's widow, and blues talent broker H. C. Speir, and a few years later uncovered Robert Johnson's death certificate. In the process of his research he became a leading authority on country blues. He also amassed the world's largest and most valuable collection of pre-war blues records, many of which are now unique.
Wardlow has published many articles on blues history, and the book Chasin' That Devil Music - Searching for the Blues, which was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 2006 as a classic of blues literature.
He has worked as an investigative and sports journalist, serving as Sports Information Director at Livingston University, and The University of Alabama. He has also been a journalism professor at various universities.