Thursday, March 19, 2015

Blues : The Revival and Beyond

The Blues influenced Rock 'n' Roll in two ways.  First, blues musicians who melded country and urban blues influenced the early days of Rock.  Second, the Blues Revival movement of the 1950s and 1960s introduced historical blues to young musicians who were to become great stars of Rock.  Later rockers incorporated blues influences into their styles, sometimes also covering classic blues songs.  The influence can be subtle shades of harmony or modern covers of classic blues songs.  Although African-Americans invented and developed the Blues, white British and American musicians embraced the music, incorporating it into other styles or continuing the Blues tradition in their way. 

Follow the links to find books, CDs and DVDs to learn and listen:

Allman Brothers Band  The Allman Brothers, guitarists Duane and Gregg, formed their band in the late 1960s, combining classic blues and country music to achieve an eclectic sound sometimes described as "Southern" rock.  The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East (1971) is an iconic live album that begins with Statesboro Blues, a song by Blind Willie McTell (1898 - 1959) and continues its blues vibe for the whole concert.  Their sound would influence generations of blues and blues-rock musicians.

Canned Heat's cover of a 1920s blues song, "Going up the Country," was one of the most memorable songs of the famous Woodstock Festival of 1970. Clapton (b. 1945), solo and with Cream, Derek and the Dominos, and The Yardbirds, continues to be one of the most influential champions of the Blues.  His Crossroads Guitar Festival brings together young and old performers every few years since 1999.

Jimi Hendrix playing guitar behind his back
Jimi Hendrix (1942 - 1970) is sometimes credited as being the greatest guitarist in rock music history.  With his group, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, he appeared at both the influential Monterey Pop Festival (1967) and Woodstock.  He grew up on the Blues but incorporated R&B styles into his performances as well.

Janis Joplin
Janice Joplin (solo and with Big Brother & The Holding Company) was a Texas-born blues-rock singer of the 1960s and 1970s.  Her performances at the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock helped define the blues-rock vocal sound for women.

Led Zeppelin was heavily influenced by the blues, and some of their songs are straight-up blues numbers.  One famous example is "When the Levee Breaks," a song about the 1927 flood of the Mississippi River that greatly affected people from Kentucky to New Orleans.

The Rolling Stones embraced the blues as youngsters in the 1950s, and as they developed their signature style, one stop for them was the famous Chess Records studio in Chicago where their heroes had recorded.  The name of the group comes from a song by Muddy Waters.

George Thorogood
George Thorogood (1950 - ) With his group, The Destroyers, has been successful as a crossover artist.  His hits include One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, by John Lee Hooker.

Jimmie & Stevie Ray Vaughan with
the double-neck guitar they used for duets.
Jimmie Vaughan (1951 - ) played guitar with his blues  band, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and with his younger brother, Stevie Ray, before going solo.

Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954 - 1990) grew up with the blues, and followed in his brother's footsteps. He and his group, Double Trouble, had several hits, including "Texas Flood" during the 1980s.  His life was cut short by a helicopter crash in 1990.

Johnny Winter
Johnny Winter (1944 - 2014) recorded his first blues song at the age of fifteen, and his first album, at age 24, was titled The Progressive Blues Experiment.  He has continued to be a master of the blues throughout his career and collaborated with his childhood hero, Muddy Waters.  His brother, Edgar, had a hit with a 1970s heavily synthesized instrumental rock song, Frankenstein.

ZZ Top is the quintessential blues-rock band.

More Blues-Influenced Performers:
Alabama Shakes released their first album in 2011, representing the latest generation of blues-rock artistry.

The Black Crowes

The Black Keys band is at once progressive and retro, channeling blues singers, 1960s psychedelic sounds, and modern Alt-Rock styles.

Joe Bonamassa (b. 1977) is one of the few guitarists to be successful as a soloist.  He founded an organization, "Keeping the Blues Alive Foundation,"  to support music for young people, awarding scholarships for college students and grants to deserving public schools.

Robert Cray (b. 1953) is one of the enduring blues vocalist/guitarists of the current generation.  He has collaborated with Eric Clapton and many other blues masters.

For More Information Check out these books:

Blues Music in the Sixties: A Story in Black and White
ML 3521 .A34 2010

Crossroads: How the Blues Shaped Rock 'n' Roll (And Rock Saved the Blues)
ML 3521 .M56 2013

Texas Blues: The Rise of a Contemporary Sound
ML 394 .G68 2008

Journeyman's Road: Modern Blues Lives from Faulkner's Mississippi to post-9/11 New York
ML 394 .G98 2007

Russia Gets the Blues: Music, Culture, and Community in Unsettled Times
ML 3521 .U6 2004

All Music Guide to the Blues: The Definitive Guide to the Blues
Reference:  ML 156.4 B6 A45 2003

Friday, March 6, 2015

Ladies Sing the Blues

Originally a man's world, the Blues attracted female vocalists who were sometimes more popular than their counterparts.  They became stars of "urban" blues in the North, especially Harlem, and later at festivals during the revival period (1950s - 1960s).

For more information, these books are available: Resonance: Iconic Women Singers and African American Literature
PS 153 .N5 L68 2013 General Collection, Fourth Floor East

Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday, by Angela Davis
ML 3521 .D355 1998

Men are Like Street Cars: Women Blues Singers, 1928 - 1969
Compact Disc 12861

Ma Rainey (1886 - 1939) made over 100 recordings in the 1920s and 1930s, as a soloist and in collaboration with Louis Armstrong.  She toured widely and influenced a younger generation of singers, including Bessie Smith.
Mother of the Blues: A Study of Ma Rainey  ML 420 .R274 L5

Alberta Hunter (1894 - 1984) sang the blues and jazz as a soloist and in collaboration with some of the legendary men of music history. She began her career in Chicago and traveled the world entertaining the troops during World War 2.

Bessie Smith, the "Empress of the Blues."  (1894 - 1937) is considered one of the best singers of the 1920s and 1930s.  She influenced both blues and jazz singers and was the highest paid black entertainer of her day.
Song book:  Bessie Smith, Empress of the BluesM 1630.18 .S62 S6 1975

Ethel Waters (1896 - 1977) Her early career was spent in several cities and on the road, but she settled in Harlem and became one of the stars of the Harlem Renaissance.  She branched out to Broadway and other styles.  She reached wide audiences with film performances in Cabin in the Sky (1943) and Pinky (1949)

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915 - 1973) sang religious music in a blues style, playing guitar as a young child.  Southern gospel developed on a parallel track to Blues and Jazz, and Tharpe had some crossover hits.  A postage stamp was created in her honor in 1998.

Shout, Sister, Shout!  The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe
ML 420 .T395 W35 2007

"Big Mama" Thornton (1926 - 1984) is most famous for "Hound Dog," which was covered by Elvis Presley.  She was part of the Blues Revival of the 1950s and 1960s, and performed with Muddy Waters among other Blues legends. She composed her own songs and also played harmonica.
Hound Dog: The Peacock Recordings (1952 - 1957)  Compact Disc 21374

Although Billie Holiday (1915 - 1959) titled her autobiography Lady Sings the Blues, she was more of a jazz singer, influenced by the Big Band era more than the Blues.