HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Blues music is one of the most popular genres of music of all time. From it’s early beginnings in the slave fields of the deep South to the smoky magic of Bourbon Street and beyond, Blues music has been celebrated as “classical folk” music long before musical styles had been labeled and established. It has grown in popularity and branched out into other styles, but all can trace their root back to the incomparable Blues.
THE MAGIC THAT IS THE BLUES
Blues music is considered to be predominantly African-American at it’s roots. It originated as a form of lyrical expression most popular for it’s storytelling style lamenting the hardships of life, love gone wrong, work and financial woes, etc.
Once the Blues showed promise of becoming popular commercially in the early 1920s, the record industry devised a plan for profiting from it financially. Blues recordings known as “race records” were created and marketed to black record-buyers following the emigration of African-Americans from the Southern states to the North.
The first of these “race” recordings were heavily influenced by Jazz music in a sort of vaudeville style and, surprisingly, were performed mainly by the great female blues singers of the day, such as Bessie Smith and Gertrude Rainey. These recordings became popular very quickly and the recording industry knew it was onto something.
Later in the 1920s a form of Blues known as “Country Blues” became popular. Country Blues was comprised of several regional musical styles such as Piedmont Blues, Delta Blues, and Texas Blues. The Country Blues song was generally performed by a lone male singer playing the piano or guitar, with the occasional harmonica or the most basic percussion for accompaniment.
In the 1930s the Blues began to be heavily influenced by urban culture, with a generous dollop of Pop and Jazz infused into what was already growing into a monstrously popular form of music.
During the 1940s electrical instruments came into play int he world of Blues. Next came saxophones, but nothing came close to touching the wailing, “crying” sound of the electric Blues guitar. Combined with the whiskey-and-cigarettes voices of Blues greats the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, and the incomparable Mr. B.B. King.
THE BLUES TODAY, TOMORROW, AND FOREVER
In the new Millennium, Blues music has held fast to the roots that made it famous. Contemporary artists like John Mayer and John Legend incorporate the Blues sound into their music and spin it into something new for the new generations, but the original, untouchable sound is still very much there, and recognizable. The world has lost a great many of the forefathers of the Blues, but the sound, the meaning, and the magic have lived on in the voices and instruments of those who love it. It is interesting these days to hear the most modern type of music and still be able to clearly detect the hint of Blues at it’s core. In many cases the artists themselves don’t realize it, but they are indeed paying homage to a style of music that will always have a voice.