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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'Do Not Sell at Any Price' makes for an enjoyable new look at an old-school ...
Las Vegas Weekly, July 30th

The bodies here are almost all arcane country-blues records—prior to reading this book, I'd never heard of the most searched-for items, like Skip James' “Devil Got My Woman” or most of Charley Patton's songs—but that's what makes Petrusich such a...Read more

G. Love and Special Sauce bringing unique rap to Ocean City Monday
Press of Atlantic City, July 30th

“We wanted to make a record in the style and spirit of the old blues records,” Dutton says. “Raw, dirty and unpolished.” To create this vibe, the band used a “live in the studio” approach, rather than relying on extensive post-production tweaking. “To...Read more

Preposterous Routes
Baltimore City Paper, July 29th

One of the most moving aspects of “Do Not Sell” comes from Petrusich's almost immediate recognition that she has showed up late to this party at a time when it is impossible to build a good collection of old blues records. How does she respond to this?...Read more

'Beatles Beginnings' CD series shows the group's rich tastes in music
Examiner.com, July 28th

Anyone interested in studying the musical influences of the Beatles and how wide-ranging they are will be interested in the wonderful “Beatles Beginnings” series put out by the Rhythm & Blues Records label that's available in the U.S. and in the UK...Read more

Rick Estrin Brings the Nightcats to Redwood City
Silicon Valley's Metro, July 24th

Growing up in San Francisco with a “beatnik” for a sister, it didn't take long for Rick Estrin to be introduced to the blues. “When I was 11 years old she started showing me some of her blues records,” Estrin recalls. “I was instantly fascinated...Read more

From Milwaukee to Chicago, Liz Mandeville traveled a long blues road
MLive.com, July 15th

Mandeville, who also writes for blues publications, and spins blues records on WNUR-FM, could be seen as a blues scholar as well as singer/guitarist. She managed to get some important names on her latest album, "Clarksdale" (Blue Kitty Music, 2012), ...Read more

World of collectors of rare 78 rpm records
The Korea Herald, July 10th

“There's music all over the world that's equally rare,” says Ward, while acknowledging that blues records nonetheless represent “a very interesting piece of Americana.” However, he adds, “That same thing exists in many other places. It's just, does it...Read more

'Do Not Sell at Any Price's' hunters stalk rare 78 rpm records
Los Angeles Times, July 3rd

"There's music all over the world that's equally rare," says Ward, while acknowledging that blues records nonetheless represent "a very interesting piece of Americana." However, he adds, "That same thing exists in many other places. It's just, does it...Read more