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.
The blues has deep roots in American history, particularly African-American history. The blues originated on Southern plantations in the 19th Century. Its inventors were slaves, ex-slaves and the descendants of slaves—African-American sharecroppers who sang as they toiled in the cotton and vegetable fields. It’s generally accepted that the music evolved from African spirituals, African chants, work songs, field hollers, rural fife and drum music, revivalist hymns, and country dance music.
The blues grew up in the Mississippi Delta just upriver from New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz. Blues and jazz have always influenced each other, and they still interact in countless ways today.
Unlike jazz, the blues didn’t spread out significantly from the South to the Midwest until the 1930s and ’40s. Once the Delta blues made their way up the Mississippi to urban areas, the music evolved into electrified Chicago blues, other regional blues styles, and various jazz-blues hybrids. A decade or so later the blues gave birth to rhythm ‘n blues and rock ‘n roll.
No single person invented the blues, but many people claimed to have discovered the genre. For instance, minstrel show bandleader W.C. Handy insisted that the blues were revealed to him in 1903 by an itinerant street guitarist at a train station in Tutwiler, Mississippi.
During the middle to late 1800s, the Deep South was home to hundreds of seminal bluesmen who helped to shape the music. Unfortunately, much of this original music followed these sharecroppers to their graves. But the legacy of these earliest blues pioneers can still be heard in 1920s and ’30s recordings from Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia and other Southern states. This music is not very far removed from the field hollers and work songs of the slaves and sharecroppers. Many of the earliest blues musicians incorporated the blues into a wider repertoire that included traditional folk songs, vaudeville music, and minstrel tunes.
Without getting too technical, most blues music is comprised of 12 bars (or measures). A specific series of notes is also utilized in the blues. The individual parts of this scale are known as the blue notes.
Well-known blues pioneers from the 1920s such as Son House, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly, Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson usually performed solo with just a guitar. Occasionally they teamed up with one or more fellow bluesmen to perform in the plantation camps, rural juke joints, and rambling shacks of the Deep South. Blues bands may have evolved from early jazz bands, gospel choirs and jug bands. Jug band music was popular in the South until the 1930s. Early jug bands variously featured jugs, guitars, mandolins, banjos, kazoos, stringed basses, harmonicas, fiddles, washboards and other everyday appliances converted into crude instruments.
Over two hours of some of the greatest blues songs ever written are highlighted in a celebration of blues heritage
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 3, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — GRAMMY-nominated King Of Blues -rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa’s 22-track Double CD, Double DVD, Blu-ray, and 4-LP Deluxe Edition Live at the Greek Theatre debuted this week at #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart. This marks the artist’s 17th #1 Billboard Blues Album, more than any other artist. Other Billboard chart numbers include #1 Top DVD Music Video Chart, #1 Top Music Video Chart, #3 Indie Chart, #19 Top Albums Chart, and #48 Top 200 Chart.
A tribute to three of the greatest bluesmen to ever live – Albert King, B.B. King, and Freddie King – Live at the Greek Theatre celebrates these icons with over two hours of some the greatest blues songs ever written. The release includes a collector’s edition booklet, and several bonus features containing behind-the-scenes footage and more. It is currently airing on Public TV and MTV Live.
“His performance seems to be even bigger and better than ever before,” said National Rock Review; Stereoboard said, “From evocative lighting to superb camera work and the joy of every musician on stage, this is a treat that further propagates the feeling you’re witnessing history in the making. Somewhere, the next King Of Blues Joe Bonamassa might obsessively digest this release and use it as a catalyst in the same way the ‘Three Kings’ roused this modern day blues great.”