The Blues, just like Jazz, its city cousin, has
its origins in the songs and chants of the
oppressed black slaves in Americas deep
rural south. To quote some forgotten author:
`The Blues is intensely personal; it identifies
the feelings of its audience and reflects its
It comes from black slave - rural music.
Negro Work Songs And Calls
Some former slaves/Black Americans
settled down and leased small farms
from white landowners, others
laboured as sharecroppers. Still others
continued traveling all over America,
working where they could, before
settling down in the growing cities like
Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and
elsewhere, where they joined others of
the Black immigrant population
crowded into ghettoes and slums.
A Klu Klux Klan Ceremony
The Lynching Of Black Americans In The South
Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit
Despite the end of slavery, racism did not end.
Blacks were persecuted, oppressed and sometimes
even lynched by Southern racist elements. Even in
other parts of the US racism continued and still
continues. And it was this misery sung by the
Black man that forged the spine of the Blues,
along with every day songs about family, sex, love
and hard times.
While the Blacks had it extremely tough,
it was sometimes at work, but also in the
leisure they sometimes found that they
sang about their lives - in the most
meaningful of ways. As someone once
said - 'Early Blues answered the need for
a release from everyday life'.
In short, the Blues is an intensely
personal music. It could and can identify
itself with the feelings of the audience as
it speaks about suffering and hope,
economic failure, the break up of the
family, 'the desire to escape from reality
through wandering, love and sex.'
Above all, the early American Blues drew
from the work chants- known as 'field
hollers and shouts in answer', which later
developed into ballads about life.
Lil' Jackson - Blues Comes To Town
A History Of Blues Pt. 1.
During the 1920s, with the growth of the
recording industry, including the 78 rpm,
phonograph, there was a massive increase
in popularity for the Blues across the country.
The Blues were even recorded by some major
recording companies (though segregated on
radio). However, it soon developed a
number of regional strains, different styles
and different instruments were introduced.
Muddy Waters - Hoochie Coochie Man
During the Depression, Blacks migrated north
to Chicago, bringing their Blues music with them.
Soon they were playing in rowdy urban clubs.
It is argued to compensate for the loud crowds
and larger venues, the more inventive performers
such as Muddy Waters switched to electric guitars
and added drums.
To quote one expert, 'This new electric
Chicago Blues was more powerful than
its predecessor. The Blues fell somewhat
out of popular favour until the late
1950s, when Elvis and others presented
Black music to mainstream White
America and The Kingston Trio recorded
the hit 'Tom Dooley', giving birth to a
Folk/Blues revival. For the next seven
years, from 1959-1966, the Newport Folk
The Rolling Stones - Mona
The Animals - House Of The Rising Sun