The term ‘Blues Shouter’ means something more than the sum of the two individual words. It is true that most Blues Shouters belt out their songs at constant full volume, with very little regard for vocal dynamics. But to really qualify for the title, a performer also has to project a fervour and energy into their delivery that gets the audience on their feet and creates a certain electricity in the air. It is not that these people are incapable of singing quietly, it’s more that they can’t help themselves once they get going, lost in the moment, at the centre of the cyclone, given over to the power of the music.
When The States was suffering the economic depression of the early 30s, not many people were buying record players and records sales ‘fell of a cliff’, compared to the heady days of ‘the roaring 20s’. However, live music was not so badly affected, and by the mid-30s many big bands were pounding the highways and filling dance-halls everywhere, playing the up-tempo ‘swing’ music that got people out onto the floor.
Mr. Five-by-Five & Count Basie (but without a microphone!)
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Music was important in maintaining public morale during the War years, but record production was badly hit by a shortage of shellac and also by the ‘Petrillo Ban‘. Live music gave people a chance to forget their troubles, and ‘Jump-Blues’ gave them plenty to get excited about. Many musicians had been drafted and war shortages meant big-bands could not afford to tour anyway, so small groups like Louis Jordan‘s Tympani Five showed the way forward with constant touring and 54 chart hits in the decade from 1942. This was the heyday of Blues Shouters, with great singers like Walter Brown, Jimmy Witherspoon and ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson fronting Jay McShann’s cut down combo, Big Joe Turner and Helen Humes singing for Count Basie, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Wynonie Harris appearing with Lucky Millinder. All these singers went on to big solo careers in the 50s as their style became known as ‘R&B’, but without exception they could belt out a Blues.
Louis Jordan Lets the Good Times Roll, (again no mic!)
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