There are many ways to describe the Blues, but as Gary Moore said, ‘Everybody knows what it’s about.’ Life, love, loss, there’s no story the Blues can’t tell without touching somebody’s soul. It’s best described as an emotional roller coaster, taking on a journey of highs and lows of joy, fury and heartbreak.This music has come a long way since its birth in the 19th century. Since then it has experienced a rapid evolution in form and style, giving us Rhythm ’n’ Blues (R ’n B), Gospel, Soul, and even Rock and Roll and Heavy Metal.
Without the likes of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters or Rory Gallagher we wouldn’t have Eric Clapton, Slash, the Rolling Stones or Louis Armstrong. As the great Willie Dixon put it, ‘The Blues are the roots and the other musics are the fruits.’
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Out of the Delta The story of the Blues began in northwestern Mississippi in the late 1800’s. It was initially a folk music popular among former slaves living in the Mississippi Delta, the flat plain between the Yazoo and Mississippi rivers. With the Great Migration of black workers that began around that time the Blues spread…Read More
The Mississippi Delta is the fertile alluvial plain that lies between the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers in the north-west of the State. Highway 61 runs from Memphis to Vicksburg through the heart of the land. The rich soil needs little irrigation, and the farms and plantations produce cotton, corn and a myriad other crops. In…Read More
Blind Blake To most people the term ‘East Coast’ conjures up sophisticated images of New York, Washington or New England, but the Blues has its roots in the warmer soil further south where the tobacco grows. The respected Blues writer Bruce Bastin coined the phrase Piedmont Blues to describe the music from the coastal plain…Read More
While they didn’t establish the genre B.B., Albert and Freddie King are without a doubt the biggest names in Blues, and while they are no longer with us today their influence continues to be felt to this day. But are the Three Kings of Blues all related to each other? You’d be surprised to found…Read More
It is 3a.m. in the middle of a sultry, moonless Saturday night in late September 1937. A Packard car is cruising south down Highway 61 in Coahoma County, Mississippi. At the wheel is Richard Morgan, a well-known Chicago club owner and ex-bootlegger: the passenger is his girlfriend Bessie Smith. She is still a star of…Read More
California is not the place you expect to find the Blues. It does not reek of the murderous working conditions of Chicago‘s killing floor, the hardscrabble existence of sharecroppers in the Delta, or the relentless dehumanision of production lines in Detroit and a hundred other industrial cities. In fact, the low numbers of Black Americans…Read More
Blues, jazz, R&B, funk, rap and hip-hop are all examples of the Black music that helped to shape our culture today, but this music grew and developed in a historical context. From the beginning of the 20th Century, African music’s rhythms and tradition of improvisation have dominated popular music, but in the early days this…Read More
Fife and drum music is a branch of country Blues that has survived from the 19th Century in a few remote rural districts of northern Mississippi. With modest home-made instruments and a simple structure, it is neverthless a joyful music, made for dancing and sharing with friends and neighbours, from a time when time itself…Read More
The roots of Gospel music are buried deep in the 18th Century, when the African culture of slaves in the American South met with the Christian faith of the white population. The Church was keen to save the Souls of the Oppressed, but afraid of any exclusively black assembly becoming a focus for rebellion, so…Read More
Texas has long been a fertile source of Blues music, and it continues to uphold that tradition, but there is a difference between the early days and the present. What we know today as ‘Texas Roadhouse Blues’ is typically a boogie-heavy dance music that sprang from a long tradition of live music in bars. Austin…Read More
‘Hokum’ is a term applied to a kind of raunchy Blues song that was popular in the late 20s and early 30s in America. The lyrics on some of those records that sold in their hundreds of thousands were quite explicit in their references to sexual practices, prostitution, homosexuality and other things which would scare…Read More
The United States and Britain have enjoyed (or endured) a ‘Special Relationship’ for a long time. After that Revolutionary War nastiness, we have pretty much remained ‘two nations separated by a common language’, and on the subject of War, we usually end up on the same side. During the sixties, however, there was a lot…Read More