Blues Music in America

Blue music originated from the deep south of the United States at the end of the 19th century. It came from the Afro American communities mixing their work songs with spiritual ballads. The original music produced a call and response pattern in a trance-like rhythm. The traditional blues music consisted of a single line being repeated up to four times. The themes were often to do with tragedy, such as a lost love or the harsh realities of the Afro American’s existence in the deep south of America. The rising popularity of the music at the beginning of the 20th century was reflected with the emergence of Ma Rainey who was one of the first blues artists to produce a record on vinyl. Her moaning style of singing saw her make over 100 recordings and she would tour the country with her band Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues.

Ma Rainey

Rainey’s powerful voice saw her produce recordings with Louis Armstrong and even sang songs about the Mississippi flood of 1927 and the threat of the cotton devastating Bo-Weevil. Even taboo subjects were covered and in the 1928 song “Prove it on Me” she sang about lesbianism and bi-sexuality.

The early blues performers used the banjo and the diddley bow to perform. As time passed by the use of the guitar became more and more popular. Up until the 1920s the blues music remained in the Deep South and it wasn’t until records were produced, and famous night clubs like the “Cotton Club” were opened in which the music was played and celebrated. In the 1930s the growth of the Blues in Memphis and Chicago saw the emergence of the Urban Blues. The larger audiences saw the refinements of the music as now the spectators included “white” followers. It wasn’t long before the influence of blues was seen in the emergence of other genres of music. In the 1930s pianos were used and this played an important role as boogie-woogie music appeared. There was also the appearance of the big band blues which saw the emergence of the expansion of the artists from small performers to larger groups.

B.B. King playing with Eric Clapton

The emergence of Blues music coincided with the growth of musical recordings, and so played hand in hand with the industry producing famous artists. One of the most famous artists to emergence was B.B King who was a singer and a guitarist. Although born on a cotton plantation in Mississippi he was a self-taught guitarist, and it was his progression into playing the electric guitar that saw him take the genre to the next level of the music world’s attention.

He toured across the States from 1949 with his band The B.B.King Review, and following the success of “3 O’Clock Blues” in 1952 he became the major attraction of rhythm and blues. His mastering of the electric guitar and merging it into blues music, took the blues into having a real influence in the rock music that was appearing in the late 1960s. King would appear with many white musicians and his concert performances with The Yardbird’s Eric Clapton reflected the influence that blues music was having on the rock world. Much of today’s music has been influenced by Blues Music and Clapton who many see as the greatest lead guitarist ever, sites Blue music as having a huge influence on his career.

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