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Blues is about tradition and personal expression.
At its core, the blues has remained the same since its inception. Most blues
feature simple, usually three-chord, progressions, and have simple structures
that are open to endless improvisations, both lyrical and musical. The blues
grew out of African spirituals and work songs. In the late 1800s, southern
African-Americans passed the songs down orally, and they collided with American
folk and country from the Appalachians. New hybrids appeared by each region, but
all of the recorded blues from the early 1900s are distinguished by simple,
rural acoustic guitars and pianos. After World War II, the blues began to
fragment, with some musicians holding on to acoustic traditions and others
taking it to jazzier territory. However, most bluesmen followed Muddy Waters'
lead and played the blues on electric instruments. From that point on, the blues
continued to develop in new directions -- particularly on electric instruments
-- or it has been preserved as an acoustic tradition.
No single person invented the blues, but many people claimed to have discovered
the genre. For instance, minstrel show bandleader W.C. Handy insisted that the
blues were revealed to him in 1903 by an itinerant street guitarist at a train
station in Tutwiler, Mississippi.
Without getting too technical, most blues music is comprised of 12 bars (or
measures). A specific series of notes is also utilized in the blues. The
individual parts of this scale are known as the blue notes.
Well-known blues pioneers from the 1920s such as Son House, Blind Lemon
Jefferson, Leadbelly, Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson usually performed solo
with just a guitar. Occasionally they teamed up with one or more fellow bluesmen
to perform in the plantation camps, rural juke joints, and rambling shacks of
the Deep South. Blues bands may have evolved from early jazz bands, gospel
choirs and jug bands. Jug band music was popular in the South until the 1930s.
Early jug bands variously featured jugs, guitars, mandolins, banjos, kazoos,
stringed basses, harmonicas, fiddles, washboards and other everyday appliances
converted into crude instruments.
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, etc. Chicago bluesmen such as John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters
were the first to electrify the blues and add drums and piano in the late 1940s.
Detroit blues is blues music played by musicians
resident in Detroit, Michigan, particularly that played in the 1940s and 50s.
Detroit blues originated when Delta blues performers migrated north from the
Mississippi Delta and Memphis, Tennessee to work in Detroit's industrial plants
in the 1920s and 30s. Typical Detroit blues was very similar to Chicago blues in
style. The sound was distinguished from Delta blues by its use of electric
amplified instruments and a more eclectic assortment of instruments, including
the bass guitar and piano. The biggest Detroit blues performer to achieve
international fame was John Lee Hooker, as record companies and promoters have
tended to ignore the Detroit scene in favor of the larger, more influential
Chicago blues. The Detroit scene was centered on Black Bottom/Hastings Street, a
visit often for more Blues News!
All Music Guide
www.allmusic.com and reprinted with
full credit to their efforts.
for all you do for
keeping the Blues growing."
Bill Wax, Proprietor of Low-Fi's Bar and Pool Hall
on XM Radio Channel 74