Blues is a music genre made popular by African-American communities the “Deep South” region of the United States during the late 19th century. It is a combination of African and European folk music covering a wide variety of songs that include shouts, chants, ballads, worship songs, and field hollers. The form of the music can be characterized by the call-and-response pattern, blues scale and chord progression that can also be observed in other genres like jazz, rhythm and blues, rock and roll. Blue music has also been popular because its groove or the trance-like rhythm that can be heard from it.
Initially, the lyrics of blues songs were made up of a single line that is repeated four times. During the early 20th century, the so-called AAB pattern became a popular form of the lyrics. The earlier blues songs were in the form of loose narrative about the struggles of the African-American society.
ORIGINS OF THE BLUES MUSIC
Though, the first blue music sheet that was published was Antonio Maggio’s “I Got the Blues” in 1908, blues music was thought to come around 1890. It was followed by Hart Wand’s “Dallas Blues” and W.C. Handy’s “The Memphis Blues.” Mamie Smith was the first African American singer to record a song in 1920.
Anecdotes on blues music started in Southern Texas and Deep South at the start of the 20th century. It was Charles Peabody who first mentioned blues music when he was in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Gary Thomas also mentioned some blues songs that he heard in Southern Texas. Other people mentioned first hearing blues music in other places like New Orleans, Missouri, Lafayette, and Georgia.
There had also been recordings of “proto-blues” which were eventually lost and non-commercial blues songs that showed different musical styles that defined the development of blues.
The origins of blues music had strong association with the music of Africa that portrayed the religious beliefs of the Africans. The first recorded anecdotes of blues could be traced back to emancipation of slavery and rise of juke joints. In 1908, the first blues music sheet was published. Since then, it had evolved into a variety of styles and subgenres such as country blues, Chicago and West Coast blues. After World War II, electric blues became popular to a lot of people that included white listeners in particular. Blues rock on the other hand rose to stardom during the 1960s and 1970s.
Recorded blues music could be traced as early as the 1920s, a time when “race music” and “hillbilly music” became popular categories for distinguishing and selling music made by black and white people. Generally, blue had been identified as music that came from the Mississippi Delta. It had eventually been used to describe the music that was recorded and sold to black listeners.
Even though, it had some religious influence during its infancy, blues music was deemed as the devil’s music. Blues singers then became completely separate and distinct from gospel singers, guitar preachers and songsters.
KINDS OF BLUES MUSIC
In 1912, three blues-like compositions were published. These included “Baby Seals’ Blues” by “Baby” F. Seals, “Dallas Blues” by Hart Wand and “The Memphis Blues” by W.C. Handy.
W.C. Handy considered himself as the “Father of Blues” though his compositions were a mix of blues, ragtime, and jazz. His most notable work as “Saint Louis Blues.”
Blues had become popular during the 1920s especially among white audiences. Performances had reached bars, theaters, and juke joints. Some recording companies had also started recording blues songs during this time.
Blues music performers also started becoming well-known which included the likes of Bo Carter, Jimmie Rodgers, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lonnie Johnson, Tampa Red and Blind Blake. Rural blues on the other hand had been made popular by Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, and Son House. Other famous blues musicians and bands eventually moved to Chicago and merged to what would become the urban blues movement.
URBAN BLUES (1930s-1940s)
Mamie Smith, Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Victoria Spivey were more or less the proponents of this kind of music. Lucille Hegamin became the second woman to make a blues record. Some of the popular male urban blues musicians were Tampa Red, Big Bill Broonzy, and Leroy Carr.
Boogie-woogie was also part of the urban blues movement. It was often accompanied with solo piano, singers, and small combos. Boogie-woogie was made pioneered by Jimmy Yancey and the Boogie-Woogie Trio and made more popular by Chicago performers such as Clarence “Pine Top” Smith and Earl Hines.
The big band blues also dominated this period which included the Bennie Moten Orchestra, Jay McShann, and the Count Basie Orchestra. A popular song played by big bands was Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood.”
Jump blues came out as a combination of boogie-woogie and big band music. Saxophones and other bass instruments were the predominant musical instrument used in this kind of music. Some jump blues performers were Louis Jordan and Big Joe Turner.
The 1950s blues was characterized by the emergence of electric blues music. This kind of music included the sounds of electric guitars, double bass, drums, harmonica, and guitar amplifier. Popular blues musicians included Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Jimmy Reed.
It was also during the 1950s that blues made a huge impact on mainstream American popular music. Consequently, the genre paved its way overseas particularly England. This in turn had influenced the people who would become some of the most famous musicians in the succeeding years.
In Chicago, the ‘West Side Sound’ was made popular by the likes of Magic Sam, Buddy Guy, and Otis Rush. Their music was predominantly characterized by the sound of amplified electric lead guitar.
Another genre known as the swamp blues also become popular. It had a slower pace and made use of harmonica. Swamp blues was made popular by blues singers that included Lightnin’ Slim, Slim Harpo, Sam Myers, and Jerry McCain.
1960s to 1970s
During the 1960s, rock and roll and soul music, both greatly influenced by blues music became popular. A number of blues musicians moved to Europe while some like John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters continued performing for their fans. It was also during this period that B.B. King was given the title “King of the Blues.” He became popular with his use of strong bass support in his music.
Renewed interest in blues arose because of music festivals that aimed to revive the genre. As blues music regained popularity, it had also been increasingly popular among white people because of the music of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the British blues movement. Interestingly, the British and blues musicians made huge impact on American blues rock fusion performers like The Doors, Canned Heat, Janis Joplin, and many more.
Since the 1980s, efforts had been exerted to continue the traditions of blue music. Some performers who became popular during this period included Bobby Rush, Marvin Sease, Peggy Scott-Adams, and Shirley Brown. There were also musicians who revived some original blues music like Eric Claption.
The succeeding years constituted of the revival of blues music on some areas and its reacquired popularity among certain groups of people aided by modern technology and social media websites like YouTube. Also Blue’s festivals that give away Tyvek Wristbands make for great keep safes.