“When you think of the blues, you think about
misfortune, betrayal and regret. You lose your job,
you get the blues. Your girl/guy falls out of love with
you, you get the blues. Your dog dies, you get the
Originated in African-American communities of the "Deep
South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from
spiritual work songs where call-and-response shouts from
slaves were an early form of blues-like music in the cotton
Blues music history is very poorly documented, due to racial
discrimination within US society, including academic circles,
and to the low literacy rate of the rural African American
community at the time.
World War II marked the transition from acoustic to electric
blues and the progressive opening of blues music to a wider
audience, especially white listeners.
Though the use of the phrase ‘Blues’ may be older, it has been
attested to since 1912, when Hart Wand's "Dallas Blues"
became the first copyrighted blues composition.
Geographical locations for Blues Music: British blues · Canadian blues · Chicago blues · Detroit
blues · East Coast blues · Kansas City blues · Louisiana blues · Memphis blues · New Orleans
blues · Piedmont blues · St. Louis blues · Swamp blues · Texas blues · West Coast blues · Hill
The blues originated on Southern plantations in the 19th Century. Its inventors were slaves, ex-
slaves and the descendants of slaves - African-American sharecroppers who sang as they toiled
in the cotton and vegetable fields.
It's generally accepted that the music evolved from African spirituals, African chants, work songs,
rural fife and drum music, revivalist hymns, and country dance music.
The blues grew up in the Mississippi Delta just upriver from New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz.
Blues and jazz have always influenced each other, and they still interact in countless ways today.
Unlike jazz, the blues didn't spread out significantly from the South to the Midwest until the 1930s
and '40s. Once the Delta blues made their way up the Mississippi to urban areas, the music
evolved into electrified Chicago blues, other regional blues styles, and various jazz-blues hybrids.
A decade or so later the blues gave birth to rhythm 'n blues and rock 'n roll.
When the country blues moved to the cities and other locales, it took on various regional
characteristics. Hence the St. Louis blues, the Memphis blues, the Louisiana blues, Chicago
The lines are often sung following a pattern closer to a rhythmic
talk than to a melody. Early blues frequently took the form of a
loose narrative. The singer voiced his or her "personal woes in
a world of harsh reality: a lost love, the cruelty of police officers,
oppression at the hands of white folk and hard times.
The blues is about overcoming hard luck, saying what you feel,
ridding yourself of frustration, letting your hair down, and simply
having fun. From unbridled joy to deep sadness, no form of
music communicates more genuine emotion.
The term "the blues” often refers to melancholy and sadness.
The lyrics often relate troubles experienced within African
American society. For instance Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Rising
High Water Blues" (1927) tells about the Great Mississippi
Flood of 1927
The first appearance of the blues is often dated after the Emancipation Act of
1863, between 1870 and 1900, a period that coincides with Emancipation and, later,
the development of juke joints as places where Blacks went to listen to music,
dance, or gamble after a hard day's work.
This period corresponds to the transition from slavery to sharecropping, small-scale
agricultural production, and the expansion of railroads in the southern United States.
The development of the blues is associated with the newly acquired freedom of the
The Diddley bow (a homemade one-stringed instrument found in parts of the
American South in the early twentieth century) and the banjo are African-derived
instruments that may have helped in the transfer of African performance techniques
into the early blues instrumental vocabulary.
Depending on the religious community a musician belonged to, it was more or less
considered as a sin to play this low-down music: blues was the devil's music.
Musicians were therefore segregated into two categories: gospel and blues singers,
guitar preachers and songsters.
Jump blues: A danceable amalgamation of swing and blues
and a precursor to R&B. Jump blues was pioneered by Louis
Boogie-woogie: A piano-based blues popularized by Meade
Lux Lewis, Albert Ammos and Pete Johnson, and derived from
barrelhouse and ragtime:
Chicago blues: Delta blues electrified:
Cool blues: A sophisticated piano-based form that owes much
to jazz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pVxWdnInWY
West Coast blues: Popularized mainly by Texas musicians
who moved to California. West Coast blues is heavily
influenced by the swing beat:
In the 1920s, the blues became a major element of African
American and American popular music, reaching white audiences.
Several record companies began to record African American
Kentucky-born Sylvester Weaver was in 1923 the first to record
the slide guitar style, in which a guitar is fretted with a knife blade
or the sawed-off neck of a bottle. Country blues performers often
improvised, either without accompaniment or with only a banjo or
Fingerpicking guitar technique became popular.
Mamie Smith, more a vaudeville performer than a blues artist, was
the first African-American woman to record a blues song in 1920.
Example: Sylvester Weaver:
The Great Migration: The transition from country to urban blues, that began in the
1920s, had been driven by the successive waves of economic crisis and booms and
the associated move of the rural Blacks to urban areas.
The new migrants constituted a new market for the music industry.
This rapidly evolving market was mirrored by the Billboard Rhythm and Blues Chart.
After World War II and in the 1950s, new styles of electric blues music became
popular in cities such as Chicago, Memphis, Detroit and St. Louis.
Electric blues used electric guitars, double bass (slowly replaced by bass guitar),
drums, and harmonica played through a microphone and a PA system or a guitar
amplifier became more popular
In the 1950s, blues had a huge influence on mainstream American popular music.
Popular musicians like Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry departed from the melancholy
aspect of blues and started to play more enthusiastic blues/rock and roll music.
Example 1: Muddy Waters
Example 2: Bo Diddley http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iu3LjImHT6g
The music of the Civil Rights and Free Speech movements in the US prompted a resurgence in
Newport Folk Festival brought traditional blues to a new audience, which helped to revive interest
in prewar acoustic blues
White audiences' interest in the blues during the 1960s increased due to the British blues
movement when bands such as The Animals, Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers,
The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, and Cream performed classic blues songs from the Delta or
Chicago blues traditions. Many of Led Zeppelin’s earlier hits were renditions of traditional blues
One blues rock performer, Jimi Hendrix, was a rarity in his field at the time: a black man who
played psychedelic rock. Hendrix was a skilled guitarist, and a pioneer in the innovative use of
distortion and feedback in his music. Through these artists and others, blues music influenced
the development of rock music.
Blues music started to be broadly popularized within the 1970s by J.J. Cale and the cover
versions performed by Eric Clapton of "After Midnight" and "Cocaine".
Example 1:The Animals http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmdPQp6Jcdk
Example 2:Eric Clapton http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdDhV45lYHU&ob=av2n
Example 3: Jimi Hendrix http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HObqZh_RTds&feature=fvst
Guitar · Bass guitar · Piano · Harmonica · Double
bass · Drums · Saxophone · Vocals · Trumpet ·
The blues form is a cyclic musical form in which
repeating progression of chords mirrors the call and
response scheme commonly found in African and
Blues shuffles or walking bass reinforce the trance-
like rhythm and call-and-response, and they form a
Top 100 Blues:
Top 20 Blues albums of all time:
Top Blues songs: http://music.yahoo.com/blogs/list-of-
List of 100 Best Blues Guitar Players & The Greatest
Blues Guitar Solos:
History of Blues:
The Blackwater Fever
Transvaal Diamond Syndicate
Task 1 – Observation Week: 13 Date: 3rd May 2012
Task 2 – Written Task Week: 8 Date: 5th April 2012
Task 3 – Portfolio Week: 13 Date: 3rd May 2012
Bring two songs to class on the following genre
ROCK AND ROLL
1. Present one YouTube clip to play in class and talk about for 30 seconds.
2. Post one to the Class Forum
3. Include in both of these, your brief comments on some of following aspects.
The style and look of the artist/genre
Musical instruments used
Other artists in this genre
What influences does this genre pull from?