The dominant gene in the DNA of rock ’n’ roll comes from the blues, which is just one reason why many believe it’s the most important musical genre of the last 100 years. Everyone from Chuck Berry to The Beatles to Led Zeppelin has used the basic 12-bar blues chord progression as the underlying structure for their music. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine much of contemporary music without it.
Cognizant of this fact, the Rock and Roll Museum inducted blues legend Robert Johnson into its Hall of Fame in 1986, the institution’s very first year. The following year it added Johnson acolyte Muddy Waters to its ranks, along with bluesmen B.B. King and Big Joe Turner. In subsequent years, blues artists such as Lead Belly, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, and Willie Dixon, among others, have been inducted into the hallowed hall.
For vinyl record collectors, blues records are particularly appealing because the style spans so many years and formats. For example, collectors of antique 10-inch 78 RPM discs on Okeh and other labels look for Bessie Smith tunes such as “Safety Mama” or “Blind” Lemon Jefferson songs like “How Long, How Long.” In the 1920s, Jefferson’s music was so popular that some of his records enjoyed as many as 750,000 pressings.
The Depression knocked some of the stuffing out of the blues market, and World War II forced many labels to cease operations altogether as raw materials were husbanded for the war effort. But a parallel upheaval was happening in the blues, as artists moved from the Mississippi Delta region in the south to urban areas up north.
In Chicago, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and John Lee Hooker all made their mark, trading their acoustic Martin guitars for electric ones made by Gibson and others (B.B. King’s black ES-335, which he named Lucille, remains one of the most identifiable instruments in music).
One of Chicago’s leading blues artists was Willie Dixon. He performed extensively in the postwar era, but he also wrote a lot of tunes recorded as 45s on Chess Records, by performers from locals Waters and Wolf to England’s Rolling Stones—their 45 single of Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster” was recorded in Chicago for Chess in 1965.
In fact, in the 1960s, rock bands would regularly weave blues numbers by Dixon, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Bo Diddley into their repertoires. First pressings of “East-West” by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band are prized, as are mint mono LPs of the 1966 “Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton” album—the leader of that band, John Mayall, was one of the greatest champions of the U.S. blues in England...
Then there were the Yardbirds, a blues-inspired pop outfit that launched the careers of not only Clapton (good luck finding a seven-inch single of their 1965 hit, “For Your Love”) but also Jeff Beck (the U.K. release of “Roger the Engineer” is much sought after) and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page (look for “Little Games”).
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Recent News: Blues Records
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'British Invasion' hitmakers to bring '60s nostalgia revueThe Seattle Times, March 5th
“We really loved trying to sound like the Everly Brothers or studying rhythm-and-blues records, or learning what Smokey Robinson and the Miracles did to get their sound.” Asher eventually became an executive for the Beatles' Apple Records. When Apple ...Read more
Low-down and dirty: Husky Burnette brings his brand of blues to townThe Daily Times, March 4th
“I remember sitting on my bed growing up, listening to blues records, and whenever I could get to a blues jam and had the confidence to play out, that's what I did,” he said. “I remember one day I saw my buddy playing a metal-bodied resonator guitar at...Read more
Jack White's Rolling Record Store will stop in ShreveportShreveport Times, March 4th
Third Man Records' Rolling Record Store is gassing it from Nashville to Shreveport with an inventory of hot tunes on vinyl and merchandise for sale. Day Old Blues Records will host the traveling record store from 3 to 7 p.m. March 16 at its store at...Read more
Nettwerk Acquires An Interest In Jazz/Blues Label Justin Time RecordsAll Access Music Group, March 3rd
NETTWERK MUSIC GROUP has acquired an interest in JUSTIN TIME RECORDS, an independent music label with a 30+ year history of releasing jazz and blues records from such luminaries as DIANA KRALL, OSCAR PETERSON, OLIVER JONES and ...Read more
Cleveland to contribute $500K to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonycleveland.com, March 2nd
Rock Hall 2015 inductee: Paul Butterfield. Paul Butterfield, entertainer, as he performed at New York's Palladium Theater on Oct. 1, 1977, in a benefit performance for the New York Public Library to purchase rare blues records. (AP Photo) (Associated...Read more
Bluesmen John Hammond, Billy Branch performThe Detroit News, February 27th
Hammond says he became a "fanatic" for blues records and taught himself to play by ear when he bought his first guitar at age 18. A year later he began playing country blues professionally; now 72, he's never stopped. The singer-songwriter will play...Read more
Filson to honors blues history at annual eventThe Courier-Journal, February 19th
The senior Bogert was a jazz man, much like many in the Louisville area around that time, but he slipped on a blues record every now and then — blues records his son was later drawn to when he started going through the collection himself as a ...Read more
Barnard and Columbia to host first Blues SymposiumCU Columbia Spectator, February 12th
Lomax Archive curator Nathan Salsburg, author Gayle Wald, and African American studies professor Sonnet Retman of the University of Washington will participate in a panel on the collection and curation of blues records on the classic 78 rpm vinyl...Read more