Blues is one of the most established genres that music has to offer, and it has influenced countless legends of music in Rock, Jazz and many other genres. The truth is, that every genre has to come from somewhere, for blues, it came from North America, and it was black music to the core.
It all begins with ex slaves and family from slaves from the southern plantations in the United States, mostly in Missisipi, and it came together as a blend of different affrican music, drums, folk and country.
This was all around the 19th century.
When you think of the blues, you think about misfortune, betrayal and regret. You lose your job, you get the blues. Your mate falls out of love with you, you get the blues. Your dog dies, you get the blues.
While blues lyrics often deal with personal adversity, the music itself goes far beyond self-pity. The blues is also about overcoming hard luck, saying what you feel, ridding yourself of frustration, letting your hair down, and simply having fun. The best blues is visceral, cathartic, and starkly emotional. From unbridled joy to deep sadness, no form of music communicates more genuine emotion.
That was the hook of blues, the pure emotion and the energy it evoked which while it could be extremely personal at times, it was also the kind of music that would make you dance.
Pioneers: Son House
The blues started to solidify around 1920, with great artists such as Son House, who actually did not like the sound of guitars at first: ” “I didn’t like no guitar when I first heard it; oh gee, I couldn’t stand a guy playin’ a guitar. I didn’t like none of it.”
Eddie James House, Jr. was born on March 21, 1902, in Riverton, MS. He was not very fond of his time working in the plantations and was unhappy about many things that surrounded him including the guitar which he eventually picked up a the age of 25 because of his place in gospel, but wasn’t really into the blues after some incidents in his life which included killing a man and serving two years in jail.
After his release, he truly began his life as a blues man and until his death, he was the king of the blues, for some, he still is.
There were many branches of music affected from the Blues around the mid 1920s and 1930s, from jazz, to gospel but one that gained a lot of popularity was Jug Blues, or Jug Bands, which were bands that used homemade instruments and regular instruments.
It was an interesting idea because sometimes many of these people with musical talent didn’t have access to radios or musical instruments, and this represents the fact that you could just tense a string on the wall and make music, use a sink as percussion, and of course jugs.
Chicago Blues: Buddy Guy
The blues is also al about feeling, and there are many great blues players and singers that were self taught, like Buddy Guy.
I’m self taught and used to playing music how I feel it. That’s the one way old blues guys from anywhere are the same. [laughs] For instance, a lot of people say they can’t play with John Lee Hooker because there’s no pattern, but I have no problem playing with John. You can hear in his voice when he’s getting ready to make a change because he plays it the way he sings it and sings it the way he plays it. You get a groove and play off that and change when you damn well feel like it. People think blues is all about 12-bar patterns, but it’s not like that and never was.
Buddy guy played with many big names, and became very popular because of his great talent playing the guitar which was both agressive and full of that blues feeling.
At this point blues had was beginning to earn the spotlight, and Chicago was the place to enjoy this type of pure honest music that came from Mississippi and New Orleans, along with Punk, but that’s another story.