Sunday, 8 March 2009
History of Blues Music- 1. The Founding of a New Genre
Blues music is at the foundation of nearly all modern popular music, from soul and Hip Hop to rock music and heavy metal.
It is taken that the form "Blues" music evolved from the vocal traditions that the black African-American slaves brought from their homelands such as Mali, Senegal, Ghana and Gambia. As the slaves toiled in the fields they would sing a "call" from one slave and a "response" from a number of others.
The word "Blues" itself was used to describe the Deliriem Tremens and as a synonym for the police. Letters sent by soldiers in the American Civil War have recorded it used in this way. The first copywrited song with the word "Blues" in the title was "Dallas Blues", recorded by Hart Wand in 1912. "Blue" is a feeling of depression and many of the songs are about problems the singer has- often with the law, with women or with alcohol.
W C Handy is accreditted with being the Father of the Blues, not becuse he was the first to play it, but because he was the first to score the music down and get it published. Handy was an educated musician, not like the many others who played in the American South, and in 1912 he published the song "Memphis Blues".
Handy's story of coming across the Blues is that he was waiting for a train in the station of Tutwiler in Mississippi, 1903. He heard the sound of a man running a knife against the strings of his guitar while singing, "Goin' Where the Southern Cross the Dog". Handy descibed the music as unforgettable.
In the early 1920's, "Classical Blues" was popular. It was mainly sung by female artists who often had the music written for them. Mamie Smith's recording of Crazy Blues sent the style to the forefront of entertainment. It cost $1 and sold 75 000 copies in the first month of release.
In the 20's, the classical blues record companies sold exclusively to blacks and the genre was termed "race music". Companies started hunting classical blues artists, leading to the popularity of Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Ethel Waters.
The record companies began to make excursions away from the cities and into the South, where they came across "Country Blues" singers such as Blind Lemon Jefferson. The music impressed them and they set about recording it, either by travelling to them with a studio or taking them to their city offices.
Jefferson was one who was taken to the Paramount offices in Chicago to cut a record. The May 1926 release of his "Long Lonesome Blues" marked the rise of Country Blues and set the stage for artists like Blind Willie McTell, Barbeque Bob and Charley Patton.
A new demand for Blues music sparked major record label interest and in the 20's, seven large labels- Paramount, Okeh,Victor, Gennett, Vocalion, Brunswick and Columbia began recording the new music.