Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Electric Blues, and Country Music (The Blues and Heavy Metal, Part 2)

In the United States during the first half of the twentieth century thousands of African-Americans move from the South to the North in search of a better life in the cities. The industrial North attracts Blacks to make the trip, known as the Great Migration, and the masses are looking for work and to escape the brutality, violence and the daily humiliations of life under Jim Crow racist segregation. Of course, in reality, Blacks move not just to the North but also to other parts of the United States. In this movement of the Black population there are blues musicians who are seeking better opportunities to play music and possibly make a living from it.
By the early 1930s there is a new instrument: the electric guitar. Some blues musicians begin playing the electric guitar and this results in a different type of blues. Among these, T-Bone Walker is recognized as one of the early practitioners of the new sound. In the 1940s Walker achieved some success with song like “Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just as Bad)” and “Bobby Box Blues.”
T-Bone Walker - Call It Stormy Monday
T Bone Walker - Bobby Sox Blues
The new sound proves to be very popular, and Chicago becomes known as a major center for the electric blues. The excitement of this urban blues can be heard in the music of so many, many musicians of the 1940s. Furthermore, not only is the electric blues popular amongst the Black population of Chicago, and the Northern cities, the new sound reaches further into the United States audiences, both Black and Caucasian, and will sooner rather than later start a bigger, stronger passion that will inspire many young musicians outside the United States, too.
The new sound of the blues has many, many major figures that have had a big influence. In the 1940s we have a figure like Sister Rosetta Tharpe who tours a lot and whose music is heard by many at this time. Muddy Waters has a big part in the sound of the Chicago blues. In fact, to many blues fanatics, Muddy Waters is the face of the Chicago blues and is almost synonymous with the mere mention of the Chicago blues.
B.B. King, of course, has had such a great career and longevity that his name is perhaps one of the most known today when people mention the blues in popular culture.
John Lee Hooker is a name associated with the Detroit blues and is one its most enduring names.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe: That's All
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Muddy Waters - I Can't Be Satisfied
Muddy Waters - I Feel Like Going Home
Muddy Waters - Rollin' Stone (Catfish Blues)
BB King 3 O'Clock Blues
John Lee Hooker Boogie Chillen original 1948 version
With these blues performers and so many more not mentioned here, there is an ever-increasing influence of the blues upon younger generations that are hearing the music. The results of the 1940s electric blues will be felt in the United States very soon and it is going to shock parents and the authorities.
The younger musicians influenced by these blues artists are listening to the blues, but they are also listening to the country music of the time. Here it is important to pause and remember: the racial segregation of the day that is present in everyday life is also reflected in music genres because “the blues” and “country music” are both American forms that the record companies used to try to keep the audiences segregated by race when selling the music.
In the 1940s there are interesting changes taking place in country music and the generation that will take center stage in American music in the 1950s is aware of country music.
One of the biggest examples of the influence of country is Hank Williams’ “Move It On Over” in 1947. Of course, there are other country songs in the 1930s and 1940s that have a certain uptempo energy that will be joined with the blues in the 1950s by the next generation. At any rate, this Hank Williams song is extremely important because, as we shall see, it is going to reverberate with American and world youth when the track is copied, emulated, and rewritten in various forms later on as the music is given a different and new genre name.
Move it on Over - Hank Williams
Before looking into the 1950s, there are additional changes taking place in the blues in the 1940s that have not been discussed here yet. That will be the subject of part 3.

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