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Chapter 3 – American Blues Traditions. Songsters – poor traveling black folk musicians in the late 1800’s – early 1900’s Many black musicians in the South were day laborers; only a few played music full-time Some of the musicians were blind; music was the only way they could make a living

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Chapter 3 – American Blues Traditions

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Chapter 3 american blues traditions

  • Songsters – poor traveling black folk musicians in the late 1800’s – early 1900’s

  • Many black musicians in the South were day laborers; only a few played music full-time

  • Some of the musicians were blind; music was the only way they could make a living

  • In their travels searching for work, musicians encountered a variety of audiences and had to maintain a diverse repertoire

  • Sang songs that told stories about legendary heroes and villains, notable events and deeds

  • The words to the verses would change, but the words to the refrain would remain the same, reinforcing the central idea and theme of the song


12 bar blues
12-Bar Blues late 1800’s – early 1900’s


12 bar blues1
12-Bar Blues late 1800’s – early 1900’s

  • Although we currently align the form to twelve bars, early blues songsters held chords longer or shorter when it felt right with the mood of the song


12 bar blues2
12-Bar Blues late 1800’s – early 1900’s


12 bar blues3
12-Bar Blues late 1800’s – early 1900’s


Early blues
Early Blues late 1800’s – early 1900’s

Mississippi Delta

  • Area of flatland that stretches from Memphis, Tennessee to Vicksburg, Mississippi

  • A number of blues styles developed in the South, but none were more pervasive than that of the Mississippi Delta


Mississippi delta blues
Mississippi Delta Blues late 1800’s – early 1900’s

  • Charlie Patton – around 1881, near Jackson Mississippi

  • Learned guitar at the age of 14, performed music around the delta for 30 years

  • Made his first recording when he was around 40 years old

  • His vocal quality was rough, growling and intense


Mississippi delta blues1
Mississippi Delta Blues late 1800’s – early 1900’s

  • He often deliberately slurred his words, a practice that became an identifying trait of the Delta blues style

  • He also tended to let his voice blend into his guitar playing, sometimes not finishing the lyrics and letting the guitar finish it instead

  • Patton's guitar accompaniment was simple, but it created a danceable rhythm

  • Patton taught and inspired a number of blues singers, most notably Robert Johnson


Mississippi delta blues2
Mississippi Delta Blues late 1800’s – early 1900’s

  • Robert Johnson – 1911 Mississippi

  • Took to the road to make a living as a musician to avoid sharecropping

  • He was a small and handsome man; like many blues musicians he had a way with women

  • He spent the rest of his short life chasing after women and running away from their men


Mississippi delta blues3
Mississippi Delta Blues late 1800’s – early 1900’s

  • Characteristics of Mississippi Delta blues musicians

  • slurred vocals

  • vocals blended into guitar parts

  • stronger sense of rhythm


Other regional blues styles
Other Regional Blues Styles late 1800’s – early 1900’s


Blind lemon jefferson
Blind Lemon Jefferson late 1800’s – early 1900’s

  • Texas - 1893

  • Style was close to field holler

  • Higher pitched singing

  • Lacked steady rhythm


Blind willie mctell
Blind Willie late 1800’s – early 1900’sMcTell

  • Atlanta - 1898

  • More pronunciation in vocals

  • Lighter vocal tone

  • More delicate guitar playing


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