Blues Then and Now - The History of the Blues (Introduction, page 1 of 2)


 
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It began in Africa and was brought to America with the slaves. It portrays a condition of depression or melancholy. It is often associated with sadness, sorrow, loneliness, protest, tragedy and sexuality. It is the story of the blues.

BLUES, THEN AND NOW traces its origin from Africa in its primitive stages to the present. It profiles the men and women that sang the blues and the importance of the string band, the jug band and the washboard hand and the field recordings in prisons, in chain-gangs and on the plantations.

The Mississippi Delta has often been referred to as The Land Where the Blues Began. It is located in the northwest section of Mississippi, Riverton, Clarksdale, Tupelo, Tutwiler, Houston, Glendora, Grenada, Cleveland, Greenwood, Indiana, Greenville, Moorhead, Rolling Fork, Philadelphia, Edwards, Jackson, Vicksville, Richland, Hazelhurst, Natchez, Laurel and McComb are the towns and cities in this area. US Highway 61 runs north-­south through the center of the blues delta.

The Mississippi Delta has many areas that are full of blues history. Tutwiler, MS. is where W.C. Handy first heard Charley Patton play his guitar at a railroad stop in 1902. Morehead, MS is the place where Robert Johnson was supposed to have made a deal with the devil for him to become a better guitar player and singer, and for that he would sell his soul to the devil so the legend goes.

Dockery Farms in Cleveland, MS, was the home place for many blues artists. Muddy Waters lived in a very poor shack in Stovall, MS. The gravesite of "Rice'' Miller A.K.A. Sonny Boy Williamson is located in Tutwiler, MS. Clarksdale, MS is where the legendary blues singer Bessie Smith died from an automobile accident on Highway 61. Ike Turner, W. C. Handy, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters also lived in Clarksdale MS.

It was in the Mississippi Delta where the blacks were forced to work on the docks, in the roadside for land-clearing, on plantations and as they worked they sang the blues. Often times making up their own set of words that depicted their sufferings and hardships.

It was the land that produced some of the greatest giants in our blues history. There were; Henry Sloan, Charley Patton, Eddie "Son" House, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Big Joe Williams, John Lee Hooker, Sunnyland Slim, Willie Dixon, Walter "Furry" Lewis and more.

The blues however, were not limited to the men only. Women like Alberta Hunter "Ma" Rainey, Ida Cox, Bessie Smith, Mamie Smith, Big Mama Thornton and a good deal more were heard singing the blues. They sang about drugs, alcohol, prostitution and crime.

 
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