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Blues History

Blues Defined

The origins of the blue are poorly documented. Blues developed in the southern United States after the American Civil War (1861-65). It was influenced by work songs and field hollers, minstrel show music, ragtime, church music, and the folk and popular music of the white population. Blues derived from and was largely played by Southern Black men, most of whom came from the milieu of agricultural workers. The earliest references to blues date back to the 1890s and early 1900s. in 1912 Black bandleader W.C. Handy's composition "Memphis Blues" was published. It became very popular, and thereafter many other Tin Pan Alley songs entitled blues began to appear.

The Blues have influenced many other musical styles. Blues and jazz are closely related; such seminal jazzmen as Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong employed blues elements in their music. Soul music and rhythm and blues also show obvious blues tonalities and forms. The blues have had their greatest influence on rock music. Early rock singers such as Elvis Presley often used blues material. British rock musicians in the 1960s, especially the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and John Mayall, were strongly influenced by the blues, as were such American rock musicians as Mike Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, and the Allman Brothers Band. Continue reading from Encyclopedia Britannica

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Is Blues the Mother of All Modern Music?



W.C. Handy "Memphis Blues" (1912)

Delve Deeper into Blues History

Link to Bessie Smith's Legacy Resource Guide
Link to B.B. King's Jailhouse Blues Resource Guide
Link to Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit Resource Guide

Check Out a Book on Blues History

Link to Hidden History Of Mississippi Blues by Roger Stolle on Hoopla
Link to Blues Legacies and Black Feminism by Angela Davis in the Catalog
Link to The Blues : The Authentic Narrative of My Music and Culture by Chris Thomas the catalog
Link to All Music Guide to the Blues by Vladimir Bogdanov et al in the Catalog
Link to The Land Where the Blues Began by Alan Lomax in the Catalog
Link to Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues cowritten by Peter Guralnick in the Catalog
Link to The blues dream of Billy Boy Arnold by Billy Boy Arnold ; with Kim the catalog