Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A brief genesis of The Blues: The primordial American Soul

Current mood: "...On a mission from God!"

The origins of blues is not unlike the origins of life. For many years it was recorded only by memory, and relayed only live, and in person. The Blues were born in the North Mississippi Delta following the Civil War. Influenced by African roots, field hollers, ballads, church music and rhythmic dance tunes called jump-ups evolved into a music for a singer who would engage in call-and-response with his guitar. He would sing a line, and the guitar would answer.

From the crossroads of Highways 61 and 49, and the platform of the Clarksdale Railway Station, the blues headed north to Beale Street in Memphis. The blues have strongly influenced almost all popular music including jazz, country, and rock and roll and continues to help shape music worldwide.

The Blues... it's 12-bar, bent-note melody is the anthem of a race, bonding itself together with cries of shared self victimization. Bad luck and trouble are always present in the Blues, and always the result of others, pressing upon unfortunate and down trodden poor souls, yearning to be free from life's' troubles. Relentless rhythms repeat the chants of sorrow, and the pity of a lost soul many times over. This is the Blues.

The blues form was first popularized about 1911-14 by the black composer W.C. Handy (1873-1958). However, the poetic and musical form of the blues first crystallized around 1910 and gained popularity through the publication of Handy's "Memphis Blues" (1912) and "St. Louis Blues" (1914). Instrumental blues had been recorded as early as 1913. During the twenties, the blues became a national craze. Mamie Smith recorded the first vocal blues song, 'Crazy Blues' in 1920. The Blues influence on jazz brought it into the mainstream and made possible the records of blues singers like Bessie Smith and later, in the thirties, Billie Holiday.

The Blues are the essence of the African American laborer, whose spirit is wed to these songs, reflecting his inner soul to all who will listen. Rhythm and Blues, is the cornerstone of all forms of African American music. Many of Memphis' best Blues artists left the city at the time, when Mayor "Boss" Crump shut down Beale Street to stop the prostitution, gambling, and cocaine trades, effectively eliminating the musicians, and entertainers' jobs, as these businesses closed their doors. The Blues migrated to Chicago, where it became electrified, and Detroit.

In northern cities like Chicago and Detroit, during the later forties and early fifties, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, and Elmore James among others, played what was basically Mississippi Delta blues, backed by bass, drums, piano and occasionally harmonica, and began scoring national hits with blues songs. At about the same time, T-Bone Walker in Houston and B.B. King in Memphis were pioneering a style of guitar playing that combined jazz technique with the blues tonality and repertoire.

Meanwhile, back in Memphis, B.B. King invented the concept of lead guitar, now standard in today's Rock bands. Bukka White (cousin to B.B. King), Leadbelly, and Son House, left Country Blues to create the sounds most of us think of today as traditional unamplified Blues.

Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, Wyonnie Harris, and Big Mama Thorton wrote and preformed the songs that would make a young Elvis Presley world renown.In the early nineteen-sixties, the urban bluesmen were "discovered" by young white American and European musicians. Many of these blues-based bands like the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Cream, Canned Heat, and Fleetwood Mac, brought the blues to young white audiences, something the black blues artists had been unable to do in America except through the purloined white cross-over covers of black rhythm and blues songs. Since the sixties, rock has undergone several blues revivals. Some rock guitarists, such as Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, and Eddie Van Halen have used the blues as a foundation for offshoot styles. While the originators like John Lee Hooker, Albert Collins and B.B. King--and their heirs Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, and later Eric Clapton and the late Roy Buchanan, among many others, continued to make fantastic music in the blues tradition. The latest generation of blues players like Robert Cray and the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, among others, as well as gracing the blues tradition with their incredible technicality, have drawn a new generation listeners to the blues.

I trust you too have been drawn to a new generation of blues lovers- for whatever your greatest music passions; if they are thought to be regarded "American" in their nature; they will inescapably owe their soul and blood to the blues.

Your thoughts are valued...

Butchie Boy Olmstead

11 comments:

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Well, you don't fool around Butchie....I hope you find Blogging a rewarding and interesting experience....On Thursdays, a Blogger named Michele..(You can find her on my sidebar...does the WONDERFUL "Meet And Gree" which goes on all weekemd long....) I met so very many wonderful bloggers this way Butchie....and they in turn, met me....And it is fun to "play along" with this M&G,m because you can go back as many times as you want, as long as you let 5 people go before you comment again, or a half hour goes by...! The thing is, you visit the person who commented above you, and the next person who comments visits you!

I wanted to say to you that the Broken Nose Group, Arm-Shot-Off, tough talking guys, were all white. And these guys ran the clubs I worked in, in those beginning days....My experience with ALL the Black people I met during those years was wonderful in every way...! I was always treated in the most respectful and professional way, and as I said in my post...These guys were my protectors....!

The Blues: Ahhh Yes...."Trouble, Trouble, Trouble, I've Had It All My Life....". All that you said is womderful! And true!

WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF BLOGGING, BUTCHIE....

Hey, one more thing...and this is personal to me....I have a terrible time with the Black Background and tiny white fonts....These old eyes struggle horribly to read a post like this.(lol) You think you could maybe make your font bigger and Bold it, too? I would be so very grateful, Butchie....!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

BEAUTIFUL, Butchie! Thanks so very much...This couldn't be more wonderful and The Blue..(For The Blues) Is PERFECT! YOu are more than kind, my dear...

By The Way: I see that one of yoit favorite Movies is A BRONX TALE....Chazz Palmenmteri developed that material at Theatre West, while he was Acting in a play of mine, THE DRESING ROOM, at another theatre! (That job in my play was his first Pro acting job in Los Angeles....) Then, A BRONX TALE was performed at Theatre West first, with Chazz playing ALL the parts, as Directed by Mark W. Travis...a dear friend, (who just started a blog today!!)...And then A BRONX TALE went on to another Theatre or two, and was then picked up for a film....! And the rst, as they say, is History...!
Do you ever feel that the world gets smaller and smaller, in a way?
I know I do. So very many cross connections, you know?
I hope you tell your My Space folks about your NEW Blog....!

Lucy Stern said...

I love Pete Fountain when he plays the blues.

kenju said...

Naomi sent me, Butchie. I like the blues, and always have. we have a radio station here that p[lays it every Sat. and I try to listen.

Girl About Town said...

Hullo!

I am here via Naomi's 'Here in the Hills'. I loved reading this short history - I am a huge fan of music of the late 40's through early 60's, and really enjoy a lot of the blues/blues-related stuff.

I had the priviledge of seeing BB King live in the late 80's, what a legendary performer!

I am a huge Elvis Presley fan, and have been most of my life - it is through Elvis that I discovered the blues.

Can't wait to read more of your blog!

twilite said...

Hi. Naomi recommended your blog highly. I like the blues. You've put down its history in a candid way. Thank you.

craziequeen said...

Howdy, Butchie Boy, all the way from the UK.
Blues are a popular taste here in England and it's interesting to read the history.

Naomi sent me to meet you, telling us all about her wonderful new blogger friends.

cq

PI said...

Hi Butchie! Naomi sent me round - all the way from the UK. Welcome to blogging and I'm sure you can teach us a lot about the blues. Magical names to me - Billie Holliday,BB King Jimi and Eric. I was brought up in the thirties when we had much more blues on the radio then. Stay cool!

colleen said...

Very informative. I had never had it spelled out quite like that. I wonder how Motown (which I grew up with) fits in. I think Led Zepplin should be on the list as blues influenced too.

Jamie Dawn said...

Hello to you from me via Naomi's blog.
The Blues really do chant the sorrows and longings and pain of the downtrodden.
I like how you said it's "call & response" between the voice and the guitar.
Very cool!!
Nice to meet you.

Butchie Boy Olmstead said...

NOT SURE HOW I REPLY TO ALL OF NAOMI'S FRIENDS WHO HAVE DROPPED BY HERE... BUT APPRECIATE YOUR KIND VISIT AND HOPE TO HEAR FROM EACH OF YOU OFTEN AND TO MAKE BETTER THE AQUAINTANCE! A FRIEND OF NAOMI IS SURELY A FRIEND OF MINE! HOPED THERE WAS A WAY TO REPLY HERE, IN THE FLOW OF COMMENTS.. BUT GUESS EACH MUST BE EMAILED? SURE SEEMS IT'D BE BETTER FOR AN OPEN CONVERSATION IF WE COULD COMMENT TO "COMMENTS" INSIDE THE BLOG ( FOR ALL TO SEE- AS PER OPEN FORUM ) RATHER THAN BY EMAILS. I'M NEW TO THIS- SO LET ME KNOW IF I'M DOING ANYTHING WRONG!

LORD HUG YOU ALL TIGHT.. - BUTCHIE