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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Kevin Gordon: Long Gone Time
PopMatters, September 1st

Keep it real / Keep it free”. Later in “Goodnight Brownie Ford”, he repeats the conversation almost word for word. On Long Gone Time it is obvious that Gordon has followed this advice as he has constructed one of the best country blues records of...Read more

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Belfast Telegraph, August 31st

His mother Violet was a keen singer, while his father George worked at the Harland and Wolff shipyard, and collected jazz and blues records in his spare time. He sampled early success with the group, Them, before going on to gain global recognition...Read more

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Irish Times, August 29th

His father, George, was an electrician at the nearby Harland and Wolff shipyard; more significantly, George was also a keen collector of jazz and blues records, which he bought from a man called Solly Lipsitz, who owned Atlantic Records on High Street...Read more

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Houston Press, August 28th

The 29-year-old singer and songwriter is equally perfect — she grew up bouncing up and down the West Coast in her father's band while soaking in both her brother's rap and dad's blues records. That's certainly the tone of her 2012 debut, Til the...Read more

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The-review, August 24th

He grew up listening to Moondog Alan Freed on Cleveland radio, who played many of the rhythm and blues records not getting airplay on white-dominated radio during those years. Growing his show originally from 15 minutes of oldies, Ricco hit the garage ...Read more

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And I think, in part, it's that a lot of the music that's been canonized - particularly the blues records that have been canonized by collectors - you know, they were made by outlier artists, so these weren't popular records, even in their moment of...Read more

Exclusive: Dan Aykroyd Launches Blues Brothers Records: 'I Want to Find the ...
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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