On America’s birthday we as Americans celebrate our independence and the birth of a new nation. It is often said that there is nothing more American than baseball and mom’s apple pie. Jazz is often referred to as the “true American art form” as I always have held a passion for jazz this old rocker would like to pose the question; what about the blues?
Somewhere around 1911 through 1914 the blues was first made popular by composer, W.C. Handy. Handy first heard an old man sitting on a bench in front of a rail station in Tutwiler, MS repeating the refrain “where the Southern crosses the Yellow Dog”. However, the poetic and musical form of the blues materialized around 1910 with Handy’s “Instrumental Blues,” “Memphis Blues,” originally known as “Boss Crump’s Blues,” and “St. Louis Blues” helped to increase its popularity. Here is a rendition of that song Handy heard.
By the 1920’s, the blues had become a national craze. The first vocal blues song recorded was “Crazy Blues,” by Mamie Smith in 1920. The influence that the blues had on jazz inspired singers like Essie Smith, and later Billie Holliday.
The Great Depression forced many businesses along Beale Street to close, never to be opened again. As more and more businesses closed, the blues migrated North to Chicago, where the blues became electrified.
In Chicago and Detroit during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s artists such as Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, and Elmore James played what was typically Mississippi Delta blues backed by bass, drums, piano, and harmonica. These artists began scoring national hits with blues songs.
During this same time, T-Bone Walker and B.B. King were pioneering a new style of guitar playing, combining jazz techniques with blues. It was B.B. King back in Memphis who in invented the concept of lead guitar now used by rock bands today. At the same time Son House, Leadbelly, and Bukka White were creating sounds of traditional acoustic blues.
It wasn’t until the 1960’s that the urban blues man was discovered by young white American and European musicians. Many blues based bands such as The Rolling Stones, Cream, Canned Heat, The Yardbirds, and Fleetwood Mac brought the blues to young white audiences.
Since the 1960’s rock has undergone several blues revivals. Guitarists Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Jimi Hendrix spin-off styles were strongly influenced by the blues.
Continuing a great blues tradition today, are Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, and Eric Clapton among others.
It’s more than just about the music. Music is a mood, attitude or a state of mind, at the same time music can affect ones mood, attitude or state of mind. No matter the genre, music can affect our very soul. I couldn’t imagine a world without music.
Music can have an effect on ones psyche. I believe even affect us on a physiological level. Music makes us happy and sad. Music makes us weak and strong.
I have respect and appreciation for all musical genres. For me Blues, Jazz and Rock get it done. Not to say I don’t spend a lot of time listening to R&B, Soul, Pop, Bluegrass, Country and Classical music, I do.
No matter your favorite type of music, one can agree it is one thing that make life a little bit more bearable at times and meaningful to others.
So maybe it is about the music.
The sum of a man’s problems comes from his
inability to be alone in a silent room
We learn in our guts, not just in our brains, that a life of joy is not in seeking happiness, but in experiencing and simply being the circumstances of our life as they are; not in fulfilling personal wants, but in fulfilling the needs of life; not in avoiding pain, but in being pain when it is necessary to do so. Too large an order? Too hard? On the contrary, it is the easy way
Charlotte Joko Beck
No one can keep you down but yourself
The legendary CROSSROADS is where highways U.S. 61 and U.S. 49 intersect in Clarksdale, Mississippi. It is here where many believe that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for musical genius. Other historians claim it was in Rosedale, Mississippi. Still others believe it was where Dockery Road crossed old highway 8 between Cleveland and Ruleville, Mississippi.
Robert Johnson, the blues singer who died in 1938 after drinking poisoned whiskey,was considered by the God-fearing, church-going folk of rural Mississippi as Lucifer’s right-hand man. Even a young Muddy Waters, growing up in the Delta in the 1930’s, believed the stories after hearing Johnson wailing “Hellhound on My Trail” on a phonograph record. One day when Muddy Waters was a teenager, he spotted the legendary Robert Johnson playing and singing on a small town street corner but because people said that the devil had taught Johnson to play the blues, he was afraid to get too close. Nevertheless, Johnson was one of Muddy Waters’ biggest influences.