The blues genre of music originated in the South specifically after the Civil War. It took place in cities like Atlanta, Memphis, and in Detroit. Chicago played the greatest role in the creation of urban blues. Some popular Chicago performers were Tampa Red, Big Bill Broozy, and John Lee (“Sonny Boy”) Williamson. Blues music is unique because it’s not so much instrumental that makes it different but the voice and lyrics that make it up. Blues artists typically tell stories through their songs. They express strong emotions such as sadness or problems caused from relationships. A blues song normally consists of the first two and a half measures of each line being designated strictly to singing then the last measure consists of an instrumental break that repeats or complements the vocals. One interesting fact about early blues is that the first recordings were made by black women like Mamie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Bessie Smith. This style was known as “classic blues”.
Three Types of Blues
Many different parts of the south created their own versions of what Blues music should sound like. In Georgia and North/South Carolina they are recognized for their emphasis on enunciation and regularity of rhythm. It’s said to be more melodic than other styles because it was influenced by white people. In Texas their style of the blues is high, clear singing paired by supple guitar lines. What made it distinguishable was that the guitar lines consisted of single-string picked arpeggios instead of strummed Chords. One influential Texas bluesman was Blind Lemon Jefferson. Finally, the most intense and influential style of Blues was the Mississippi Delta Blues. The vocals are more speech-like and the guitar is rhythmic and percussive. Charley Patton, Eddie “Son” House, and Robert Johnson are just a few artists that brought this style of blues to fame.
The blues influenced many other musical styles such as Jazz, R&B, soul music, and Rock. Artists such as Elcis Presley incorporated blues material into their songs. R&B artists would display blues tonalities and forms as well. British rock musicians were also strongly influenced by the blues as well.