Greatest Blues Songs

Boogie Chillen

The Birth of Boogie The seminal blues classic ‘Boogie Chillen’ began life in 1948, but like many early pillars of the blues world it was built on borrowed riffs, second-hand lyrics and decades of folk tradition. Written and first performed by the legendary John Lee Hooker, the song would influence countless blues guitarists and inspire…

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Crossroads

Crossroads (sometimes known as the Crossroads blues) is a song so shrouded in mystery and hearsay that separating fact from legend is a tricky task. Thanks to Eric Clapton, Hollywood and Blues lore we’ve all heard about how the song’s creator Robert Johnson went down to the crossroads to sell his soul to Satan in…

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Stagger Lee

The story of Stagger lee (sometimes known as Stagolee, Stack O Lee and a host of other titles) begins on Christmas day of 1895 with a violent game of craps that would inspire regional folklore, taunts and, eventually, a legendary blues song. ‘Stag’ Lee Shelton, a fast-talking, high-living pimp spent his Christmas evening gambling in…

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Rollin’ and Tumblin’

Classic blues songs are often as well travelled as a sturdy set of luggage. They endure untold mileage and years in the hands of different bluesmen and rock stars. But few songs have experienced as tortured and improbable a journey as Rollin’ and Tumblin.’ The First Roll On March 14th, 1929, A mysterious Tennessee bluesman…

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I’d Rather Go Blind

Jailhouse blues Prison has an oddly mythical status in the world of the blues. More than a few blues classics tell heartbreaking (and sometimes comical) tales of protagonists who wind up in the big house. Other blues songs are performed by artists who themselves had done actual time. But few songs had their origin in…

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Little Red Rooster

Birth of the Chicago Blues Fewer individuals have played a bigger role in the development and popularity of the blues than Willie Dixon. Born in 1915, Dixon was a man of many talents. He was a songwriter, arranger, producer, lyricist, singer and player of the guitar and upright bass. The best way of summing up…

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Texas Flood

The Flood’s beginning Although ‘Texas Flood’ is usually associated almost exclusively with Stevie Ray Vaughan – understandable given his masterful treatment – the song actually had a captivating history years before reaching Vaughan. As the song’s title would imply, the story begins in the American Southwest. Larry Davis was an Arkansas native bluesman who started…

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St. James Infirmary Blues

Who Birthed the Blues? The first known recording of St. James infirmary Blues came in 1927. Then known as “Gambler’s Blues,” the dirge-like tale was recorded by Fess Williams and his Royal Flush Orchestra. Recorded in a minor key, its melody featured eight bars as opposed to the standard twelve so common in the blues.…

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Ball and Chain

Big Mama’s Big Song There are times when an artist’s impact is best measured not by their commercial success, but by the influence they had on future artists. This is perhaps the best way to understand the legacy of blues icon Big Mama Thornton. There are a number of reasons to admire the early blues…

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