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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Reviewed!: some under-the-radar spring highlightsUncut.co.uk (blog), May 3rd
By the time of the recordings in 1950, however, this Tsabouna music had migrated to Tarpon Springs, Florida, where many of its practitioners had relocated to ply their trades as free-diving sponge fishermen. King, also a noted collector of old blues...Read more
Jimmy 'Duck' HolmesElmore Magazine, April 26th
It comes as no real surprise then that the first artist to debut on the Briggs Farm Blues Records is Jimmy 'Duck' Holmes, who has played the festival many times. Richard says, “ Our goal is to record the blues artist that you may not necessarily heard...Read more
De Stijl perfectly captured The White Stripes' statement of purposeA.V. Club, April 25th
Like so many blues records of the early 20th century, McTell arguably used women as a placeholder for white society, thereby taking out his aggression in a (then) more palatable way for audiences. This in itself doesn't necessarily excuse the...Read more
Groove Masters of the Vinyl RevivalBloomberg, April 21st
To keep occupied, he started collecting vintage jazz and blues records from estate sales and used record stores and then—because what else was there to do in Salina?—selling them out of his bedroom. Kassem launched a mail-order record business, ...Read more
Yes, Led Zeppelin took from other people's records – but then they transformed ...The Guardian (blog), April 12th
Yup -- that's the bottom line. I've seen the YouTube clips that feature the classic LZ songs side-by-side with the "originals", and it only increased my respect for Jimmy Page and the way he saw something so heavy and thunderous in those early blues...Read more
Nescopeck-based Briggs Farm Blues Records releasing live recording of ...Wilkes Barre Times-Leader, April 7th
On April 15, that recording will see release on CD, vinyl and digital outlets as the first offering from Briggs Farm Blues Records. “A record label is not something I ever wanted to do,” Briggs said. “If you think about it, it's becoming a lost...Read more
Music roundup: Robert Cray Band to visit Milwaukee on April 14Janesville Gazette, April 6th
Cray grew up listening to his parents' blues records of Otis Rush, Buddy Guy and several Chicago artists, as well as gospel and R&B classics. By 1974, the Robert Cray Band had established a presence in the Pacific Northwest blues scene when Cray was ...Read more
Grinder Blues records at DMI's 'Abbey Road of South'Jackson Clarion Ledger, October 17th
Long before dUg Pinnick became one of the music industry's most coveted bass players and a founding member of the acclaimed progressive metal band King's X, his musical foundation was shaped by the music of the Mississippi Delta. Born in Illinois in ...Read more