History of the Blues – 1930s

When the country workers moved to the cities during the 30s and 40s, they took their music with them. Over time various regional characteristics evolved.

Eddie James “Son” House, Jr. (March 21, 1902 – October 19, 1988) was an important singer and guitarist in the Mississippi Delta, noted for his highly emotional style of singing and slide guitar playing, where the strings are not fretted with the left hand – the guitarist slides a piece of pipe, a bottle neck or a knife up and down the strings.

After years of hostility to secular music (in common with a lot of black musicians as a preacher, and for a few years also as a church pastor, he turned to blues performance at the age of 25. He quickly developed a unique style by applying the rhythmic drive, vocal power and emotional intensity of his preaching to his music.

Here’s another example from the excellent Bessie Smith – this song is a fine example of New Orleans blues, with its more complex instrumentation (which instruments can you identify?) and its much jazzier feel.

….and an example of Chicago blues

We can’t leave the 1930s behind without mentioning Robert Johnson, arguably the finest blues guitarist ever – the legend developed acquired his skills at the crossroads where he made a pact with the devil.He tells the story himself in this song…check out the amazing rhythms in the guitar playing – remember he was singing and playing at the same time.

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