The origins of the blues are poorly documented, but it is believed that after the American Civil War (1861–65), formerly enslaved African Americans and their descendants created this genre while working on Southern plantations, taking inspiration from hymns, minstrel show music, work songs and field hollers, and ragtime, etc.
30 Blues artists within this blog post:
“The Clouds” is a 1959 instrumental by The Spacemen, an instrumental studio group. The single released on the Alton label, was the only chart hit by The Spacemen. “The Clouds” (https://youtu.be/zZ87IKPKr1g) hit number one on the R&B chart for three non consecutive weeks, and also peaked at number forty-one on the Hot 100.
Brown, Charles (1922-1999). American singer and pianist whose soft-toned, slow-paced nightclub style influenced West Coast blues in the 1940s and 1950s. “Trouble Blues” Post 18 (https://youtu.be/wq8N7wGR0lE) (RQ 9).
Butterfield, Paul – Blues Band (1942-1987). American blues harmonica player, singer and band leader. After early training as a classical flautist (playing the flute), he developed an interest in blues harmonica. Also played electric lead guitar. “Born in Chicago”Post 12 (https://youtu.be/TzfVrmkbaUc) (RQ 8).
Cooke, Sam (1931-1964). Considered the most important soul singer in history, along with being the inventor of soul music, African American singer Sam Cooke was the most popular and beloved performer in both the black and white communities during his times! Unfortunately, on December 11, 1964, in response to a reported shooting, officers of the Los Angeles Police Department were dispatched to the Hacienda Motel, where they found musician (the 33 yr old) Sam Cooke dead on the office floor, shot three times in the chest by the motel’s manager, Bertha Franklin. The authorities ruled Cooke’s death a case of justifiable homicide, based on the testimony of Ms. Franklin, who claimed that Cooke had threatened her life after attempting to rape a young woman with whom she had earlier checked in. In the years since his death, the circumstances surrounding Cooke’s shooting have been called into question by his family and others. Two of his best recordings: “Twistin the Night Away” Post 12 (https://youtu.be/zTArYTvpLZA) (RQ 9). “Having a Party” (1962) https://youtu.be/OmMbN_MrlTQ.
Country Joe & The Fish (1965-1970). An American psychedelic rock band formed in Berkeley, California, in 1965. The band was among the influential groups in the San Francisco music scene during the mid-to-late 1960s. An example recording: “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine” Post 6 (https://youtu.be/ha-3Dg-PP1U) (RQ 9).
Dixon, Willie (1915-1992). Born in Vicksburg, VA. American blues musician, vocalist, songwriter, arranger and record producer. He was proficient in playing both the upright bass and the guitar, and sang with a distinctive voice, but he is perhaps best known as one of the most prolific songwriters of his time. A recording: “I Can’t Quit You Baby” Post 18 (https://youtu.be/4GO2nU57Ldk) (RQ 10).
Hooker, John Lee (1917-2001). From Tutwiler, MS. An American blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist. The son of a sharecropper, he rose to prominence performing an electric guitar-style adaptation of Delta blues. Hooker often incorporated other elements, including talking blues and early North Mississippi Hill country blues. A sample song:“Boom Boom” Post 38 (https://youtu.be/o_6SlT3Yy10) (RQ 8).
Jackson first gained prominence while working at WBCN in Boston in the late 1960s, then at KLOS in Los Angeles for ten years. Jackson was one of the first DJs to introduce Americans to The Who and Led Zeppelin. In 1976, he was featured in a voice-only performance as a DJ of the fictional KGYS radio in the movie Car Wash. He was a music reporter for KABC-TV when he was tapped as one of MTV’s original “fab five.” As a VJ, Jackson hosted the long-awaited and much anticipated “unmasking” of KISS. He was one of the few African Americans to DJ an “album rock” radio station. One of his hits: “But It’s Alright” (1966). https://youtu.be/7eHicYDEyJ0.
James, Elmore (1928-1963). He was known as “King of the Slide Guitar” and was noted for his use of loud amplification and his stirring voice. A song of his:“Dust My Broom” Post 18 (https://youtu.be/5jcGY7NbaQw) (RQ 9).
Johnson, Robert (1911-1938). From Hazlehurst, MS. His landmark recordings in 1936 and 1937 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that has influenced later generations of musicians. He is now recognized as a master of the blues, particularly the Delta blues style. Sampling of his music: “Cross Roads Blues” Post 18 (https://youtu.be/GsB_cGdgPTo) (RQ 8).
King, B. B. (1925-2015). From Berclair, MS. He introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending, shimmering vibrato and staccato picking that influenced many later blues electric guitar players. A great example of his music: “The Thrill is Gone” Post 38 (https://youtu.be/SgXSomPE_FY) (RQ 8).
King, Freddie (1934-1976). From Gilmer, TX. Mostly known for his soulful and powerful voice and distinctive guitar playing. A sample of his work: “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” Post 18 (https://youtu.be/CiUPyrMA78Q) (RQ 7).
Lead Belly – Huddie William Ledbetter (1888-1949). From Mooringsport, LA. Notable for his strong vocals and virtuosity on the twelve-string guitar. An example of his music: “Good Night Irene” Post 18 (https://youtu.be/9JqLlBSHW-A) (RQ 8).
Lynn, Barbara (1942- ). She is from Beaumont, TX. Left handed lead guitarist. American rhythm and blues and electric blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. She is best known for her R&B chart-topping hit: “You’ll Loose a Good Thing” Post 36 (https://youtu.be/-fk6lgA10MQ) (RQ 9).
Mason, Dave (1946- ). From Worcester, UK. An English singer-songwriter and guitarist from Worcester, who first found fame with the rock band Traffic. One of his songs: “Fellin Alright” Post 36 (https://youtu.be/bOQSBRMYJms) (RQ 9).
Morton, Jelly Roll – Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe (1890-1941). From New Orleans, LA. An American ragtime and jazz pianist, bandleader, and composer. Morton was jazz’s first arranger, proving that a genre rooted in improvisation could retain its essential characteristics when notated. “All my fellow musicians were much faster in manipulations, I thought than I, and I did not feel as though I was in their class. So he used a slower tempo to permit flexibility through the use of more notes.” A song example: “Creepy Felling” Post 18 (https://youtu.be/A_msjBRjRBo) (RQ 7).
Professor Longhair – Henry Roeland “Roy” Byrd (1918-1980). From Bogalusa, LA. He helped shape the sound of New Orleans rhythm and blues from the mid-1940s. An example: “Gone So Long” Post 18 (https://youtu.be/gGGq3QCn9Dc) (RQ 9).
Rainey, Ma Gertrude (1886-1939). From Columbus, GA. She bridged earlier vaudeville and the authentic expression of southern blues, influencing a generation of blues singers. A sampling of her work: “Deep Moaning Blues” Post 18 (https://youtu.be/Lmi-1h_xNKw) (RQ 8).
Reese, Della – Delloreese Patricia Early (1931-2017). From Black Bottom, Detroit. An American jazz and gospel singer, actress, and ordained minister whose career spanned seven decades. One of her famous hits: “Come Rain or Come Shine” Post 36 (https://youtu.be/DYK2m2n38lI) (RQ 8).
Rodgers, Jimmy (1924-1997). From Ruleville, MS. An American Chicago blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player, best known for his work as a member of Muddy Waters’s band in the early 1950s. A hit of his: “That’s All Right” Post 18 (https://youtu.be/VMElkWHNz7s) (RQ 8).
Ruffin, Jimmy (1936-2014) & David (1941-1991). Born in Whynot, MS. It’s a little heartbreaking that Jimmy Ruffin will only be remembered by most folks, if at all, as the voice that asked “What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted.” On the upside, as is often the case with soul singers of his era, fans in the UK gave him a lot more credit than that and he was able to enjoy a bigger career overseas than we offered him at home. David Ruffin songs proved that the Motown singer most remembered for his time with The Temptations. A song example: “When My Love Hand Comes Down” Post 11 (https://youtu.be/DeCBP4eu3iM) (RQ 8).
Shore, Dinah (1916-1994). From Winchester, TN. An American singer, actress, and television personality, and the top-charting female vocalist of the 1940s. She rose to prominence as a recording artist during the Big Band era. Not her usual style: “Blues in the Night” Post 36 (https://youtu.be/CNyUlQ8T9ns) (RQ 7).
Smith, Bessie (1894-1937). From Chattanooga, TN. Nicknamed the “Empress of the Blues”, she was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s. Her career was cut short as she lost her life at only 43 in a car accident. A sample: “St. Louis Blues” Post 18 (https://youtu.be/cwRbsULaQIo) (RQ 7).
Tharpe, Sister Rosetta (1915-1973). From Cotton Plant, AR. She attained popularity in the 1930s and 1940s with her gospel recordings, characterized by a unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and electric guitar that was extremely important to the origins of rock and roll. Have a listen: “Down by the Riverside” Post 18 (https://youtu.be/DiYz23NUdXA) (RQ 9).
The Soul Stirrers (active 1926-1960s). From Trinity, TX. The group was a pioneer in the development of the quartet style of gospel, and a major influence on soul, doo wop, and Motown, some of the secular music that owed much to gospel. Sam Cooke was a member. A sampling: “I’m a Soldier” Post 18 (https://youtu.be/PsqFieU26s8) (RQ 8).
Turner, Big Joe – Joseph Vernon (1911-1985). From Kansas City, MO. According to songwriter Doc Pomus, “Rock and roll would have never happened without him.” An American blues singer, or “shouter,” whose music included jazz, rhythm and blues, and boogie-woogie. One of his hits: “Shake, Raddle and Roll” Post 16 (https://youtu.be/rJoTiZ0tHYc) (RQ 7).
Ward, Singing Sammy – James T. Woodley (1932-1995). Ian Levine stated of Ward that: “He was almost impossible to record, as he couldn’t stick to any melody at all, and merely improvised in a bluesy voice.” From Birmingham, AL. His best recording: “Who’s the Fool” Post 35 (https://youtu.be/G2Fma9MxTzg) (RQ 10+).
Walker, T-Bone – Aaron Thibeaux (1920-1975). From Linden, TX. An American blues musician, composer, songwriter and bandleader, who was a pioneer and innovator of the jump blues, West Coast blues, and electric blues sounds. A song of his: “Woman You Must Be Crazy” Post 18 (https://youtu.be/J6-sADWSsF4) (RQ 10).
Walker, Little – Marion Walter Jacobs (1930-1968). From Marksville, LA. A great harmonica player. An American blues musician, singer, and songwriter, whose revolutionary approach to the harmonica had a strong impact on succeeding generations, earning him comparisons to such seminal artists as Django Reinhardt, Charlie Parker and Jimi Hendrix. He was subjected to numerous beatings throughout his life, leaving his face and body bruised, battered, and scarred. Walter continually pushed his body to its limit, which ultimately resulted in his premature death at 37. A sample of his music: “Sad Hours” Post 19 (https://youtu.be/vgTu_CzBZ3k) (RQ 10).
Waters, Muddy – McKinley Morganfield (1913-1983). From Issaquena County, MS. An important figure in the post-war blues scene, and is often cited as the “father of modern Chicago blues.” One of his songs: “Cold Weather Blues” Post 48 (https://youtu.be/bkLRKs4_oOc) (RQ 9). Also his Greatest Hits (1964) https://youtu.be/lZqZXSGQasE.
Wolf, Howlin-Chester Arthur Burnett (1910-1976). From Whites, MS. He moved to Chicago in adulthood and became successful, forming a professional rivalry with fellow bluesman Muddy Waters. A song of his: “Smockstack Lightening” Post 18 (https://youtu.be/QS33LNHXpXM) (RQ 8).
Yancy, Jimmy (1894-1951). From Chicago, IL. An American boogie-woogie pianist, composer, and lyricist. One reviewer described him as “one of the pioneers of this raucous, rapid-fire, eight-to-the-bar piano style” A really good recording: “The Bluesman Series (How Long Blues)” Post 18 (https://youtu.be/iNi6nK1LF1c) (RQ 7).