The Blues began in the fields of the “Deep South” of the United States, evolving from the shouts and chants of the field workers and the spirituals sung in church on Sundays. Its origins can be traced back to the rhythms of Africa, brought to America by the slaves. It is a true American music. Although the Blues originated in the Mississippi Delta, its influences were felt throughout the United States and different forms and sounds of the Blues developed differently in various area of the U.S.
Week 1 - The Delta Blues
Delta Blues is one of the earliest forms of the Blues style. Identified by acoustic slide and open tuning guitar, harmonica and gut-bucket bass. The Mississippi Delta follows the river south from Memphis, Tennessee down to Vicksburg, Mississippi and encompassed the vast cotton fields of the US south. We’ll look at some of the greatest early blues artists like Robert Johnson, King Solomon Hill, Lead Belly, Mississippi John Hurt, Fred McDowell and Sonny Boy Williamson and see where the Blues began.
Week 2 - The Memphis Blues
The Northern-most point of the Mississippi Delta was Memphis, Tennessee and it developed its own style with artists such as B. B. King, Albert King, Howling Wolf, John Lee Hooker and Junior Wells, adding the electric guitar and a little more bite to the mix. These were Blues howlers who let their guitars wail. We’ll look at how the electric guitar influenced their particular brand of the Blues and we’ll see how W.C. Handy actually invented the Blues.
Week 3 – Chicago Blues
The Blues followed the migration of farm workers as they moved north along the Mississippi river and from rural to urban America, seeking work and a better life in the industrialized north. The predominantly black neighbourhood of South Chicago became the home of Chicago Blues artists like Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Willie Dixon, James Cotton and Otis Rush. Now we had big city pushy blues with that relentless shuffle or skip beat. We’ll look at how the stockyards and South Michigan Avenue influenced the sound of the Blues.
Week 4 – Texas Blues
Texas Blues originated, again, from the African Americans who worked the oilfields, ranches and lumber camps in the South West of the United States. Texas Blues incorporates the old time swing and jazzy feel that comes from the cowboy swing music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. Some of the artists from the Lone Star State that we’ll look at are Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lightnin' Hopkins, T-Bone Walker, Freddie King and Albert Collins, and of course some of artists that have ignited a revitalization of Texas Blues, like Stevie Ray Vaughn and ZZ Top.
Week 5 – The British Blues
No one quite knows why the British took to the Blues so much and so well. Maybe it was the industrial working class that gave them the same feeling as the farm and field workers in the Deep South, but they took to the blues and embraced it with a passion. The likes of Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, John Mayall and Jeff Beck, all white boys from the south of England, put their stamp on the Blues. They paid homage to the originators, but added their own flair.
Week 6 – The New Young Blues Guitarist
Although the Blues have been played for nearly 100 years, they have not lost their energy. The old time players may have left us, but there is a whole new generation of great new young Blues players who pay homage to the roots of the Blues and carry the torch to a new generation. We’ll look at the new young guitar slingers who hope to join the legacy of great Blues guitar players. People like, Jon Bonamassa, Johnny Lang, Robert Cray, Brendan McFarlane and John Mayer. Will they keep the Blues alive!!!!!?????