Blues Then and Now - The History of the Blues (Introduction, page 2 of 3)


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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.

As the blues became more and more popular with the white audiences, the black blues singers began to travel north to Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Kansas and New York. They embellished their bands by adding additional instruments that included the bass, drums, trumpet. violin and clarinet.

During the 1960s, a new herd of blues musicians and singers were heard. There were the "Rolling Stones", the "Yardbirds", "Fleetwood Mac", "Paul Butterfield Blues Band", "Eric Clapton", "Eddie Van Hale", and many more The blues as we know it today began as a merger between the African and European cultures. In its beginnings, it came out of the shout and the African call-and-response singing. This call-and­-response adopted the three line stanza (AAB) that developed into 12 bars of music. The three basic chord progressions that came from the American culture are the I-IV-V progressions.

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