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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Matt Schofield Planting Diverse Blues Roots In Ridgefield June 10The Newtown Bee, May 23rd
A lot of the blues records they had, I didn't even own. My dad had a lot of those original blues recordings, so I was influenced right from the source. I know most all of my friends were switched on by British players who came over here selling it back...Read more
Local History: Bill Haley and the Comets at Vineland High SchoolVineland Daily Journal, May 22nd
As legend has it, the term "rock 'n' roll," was first used by disk jockey Alan Freed in the early 1950s to describe the rhythm and blues records played on his Cleveland radio show. Although not the first rock 'n' roll song, "Rock Around the Clock" by...Read more
Young Chicago bluesman Will Tilson defies expectationswhat's up, May 20th
I just dived into blues records. I remember buying a box set with a bunch of hits from: Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, and a bunch of blues legends. But as I progressed I decided to dive even deeper: artists from Memphis and then I was...Read more
BB King's Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 HitsBillboard, May 15th
1 on Billboard's Most-Played in Juke Box Rhythm & Blues Records chart, and on the Best Selling Retail Rhythm & Blues Records chart. He charted further No. 1s on Billboard's various R&B charts with "You Know I Love You," "Please Love Me" and "You Upset ...Read more
Cash Box Kings mix old-time blues with new topicsMadison.com, May 15th
He took up two instruments he thought he could learn on his own, the harmonica and guitar, and emulated what he heard on the old blues records he loved. He also started to go hear the blues live, and as a teenager got to see the likes of John Lee...Read more
BB King, Defining Bluesman for Generations, Dies at 89New York Times, May 14th
16, 1925, to Albert and Nora Ella King, sharecroppers in Berclair, Miss., a hamlet outside the small town of Itta Bena in the Mississippi Delta. His memories of the Depression included the sound of sanctified gospel music, the scratch of 78 r.p.m...Read more
Mississippi-born blues belong to all the worldHouston Chronicle, April 29th
Patton is a crucial figure in American music, having made some of the most important early blues records, which still sound remarkable and vital today, even though technology was primitive at the time. We have little biographical information about him...Read more
Exclusive: Dan Aykroyd Launches Blues Brothers Records: 'I Want to Find the ...Billboard, March 16th
Jack White and Aerosmith have done blues records. After I saw Miley Cyrus on Saturday Night Live, I could hear her doing Lightnin' Hopkins with that growling voice. By working with a first-class producer in Don and using BluesMobile to help sell, there...Read more