History of Blues. Part 4.

What are 3 characteristics of the blues?
Metre, rhythm and tempo swing rhythms are heard- quavers are uneven and give a triplet feel to the beat. early blues music was very slow but got faster as the style developed. walking bass lends a steady rhythm to the music.

In early 1933, when the blues were barely recorded, it began to appear again in the monthly release announcements.


The most popular blues performer of that time was Leroy Carr (b. Nashville, Tennessee, 1905; d. Indianapolis, 04/28/1935), a pianist who developed extraordinary harmony with his accompanying guitarist Scrapper Blackwell. They met when they were both just 20 years old, and although both recorded solo work, it is in this duo that they are most impressive.


Carr usually sang along with himself in a fluid, close to boogie-woogie manner. His melancholic voice was comparatively euphonious for the blues, and the lyrics (of the joint composition) were brooding and poetic, embellished with feelings and feelings of disappointment; reflecting the mood of many of their listeners. Blackwell’s guitar had a contrasting clear sound. Their How Long, How Long Blues (Vocalion 1191, 1928), Midnight Hour Blues (Vocalion 1703, 1932), Hurry Down Sunshine (Vocalion 02741, 1934), Prison Bound (Vocalion 1241, 1928) quickly entered the repertoire of many blues singers and still have not lost their attractive power.


When Carr died of alcoholism, many dedicated their blues to his memory. Blackwell was never able to recover from the shock of Carr’s death; he was killed 30 years later. The fatalism of Carr’s blues was imprinted on the work of his main imitator Bumble B. Slim (Amos Easton), the St. Louis pianist Walter Davis, and the recordings of Pitty Wetstro. They all had monotonous voices and less expressive “messages” than the previous generation of blues artists.

Peetie Wheatstraw Crazy With The Blues (1937)

Peetie Wheatstraw (William Bunch) (born Ripley, Tennessee, 12/21/1902; d. East St. Louis, 12/21/1941) spent most of his life in St. Louis and was popular in the notorious Valley area. Since then, at the age of 28, he recorded Tennessee Peaches Blues (Vocalion 1552, 1930), having gained widespread fame, and until a month before his death in a train accident, he recorded over 160 songs. On the envelopes of his records, he was described as “the devil’s stepson,” and once, as the “chief sheriff of Hell” – perhaps because Wetstro encouraged wildness – in contrast to the careless performance of many Mississippi Bluesmen.


Many copied him, some declared their personal friendship with him; he himself, by all accounts, was a good guitarist, although he usually played along with himself on the piano in the recordings. He sang about gamblers, prostitutes, bootleggers, vagabonds, a typical example of Kidnapper’s Blues (Vocalion 03249, 1936) – and more than any other blues singer, Wetstro was a spokesman for the black working class. The themes of employment or unemployment were constantly used by him, for example in “Working On The Project” (Decca 7311, 1937). Unfortunately, on his subsequent recordings “Decca” used more sophisticated accompaniments, so they turned out to be interesting poetically, but less successful in musical terms.

Kokomo Arnold / Milk Cow Blues

Wetstro worked frequently with James ‘Kokomo’ Arnold (b. Lovejoy, Georgia, 02/15/1901; d. Chicago, 11/8/1968) who was an accomplished musician. Arnold left a farm in Georgia, where he grew up to settle in Buffalo, New York, and when he was in his early 20s, he embarked on a journey as far south as Mississippi. He played a steel-rimmed guitar across his knees, hitting the strings with a bottle to create a “crying” sound. On many records, his voice sounded quite high, when in fact it was lower, with a slight hum, which he often used for the humming effect in guitar solos. In Memphis, under the name Jim Gutfeld, he recorded the ingenious Paddlin Blues (Victor 23268, 1930).

Gitfiddle Jim Paddlin’ Blues VICTOR 23268

Later he began recording on Decca and the “Old Original Kokomo Blues” (Decca 7026, 1934) was an immediate success; over the next four years he recorded over 70 songs, and a few more with Wetstro: “Set Down Gal” (Decca 7361, 1937) is a great example of their pub duos. The solo part “Policy Whell Blues” (Decca 7147, 1935) is typical of his original lyrical blues. The Dirty Dozen version of The Twelves (Decca 7083, 1935) used his traditional theme as the source of his frantic performance. In 1936, Arnold began working at a steel plant, finally abandoning music.

Although the calm and “courteous” singing of Lero Carr and his followers enjoyed immense popularity not only in the north, but also among young southerners, because it corresponded to their more sophisticated approach to the blues, along with Arnold, many singers were recorded in the traditional manner – with uninteresting lyrics and with a stylized rural accompaniment.

Sleepy John Estes (gt,voc,) And Hammie Nixon (harm,voc,)

The most significant of these can be considered John Adam ‘Sleepy John’ Estes (born Ripley, Tennessee, 01/25/1899; d. Brownsville, Tennessee, 06/05/1977). Having poor eyesight, although he could do farming, after learning to play the guitar, he performed at village picnics and parties in the vicinity of Brownsville. In “Milk Cow Blues” (Victor 38614, 1930), accompanied by local mandolinist Yank Rachel, accented phrasing, choppy voice and irresistible rhythm characterize his best recordings. He recorded quite a few of them with the young Hammy Nixon, who played the harmonica; “Drop Down Mama” (Decca 7289, 1935) is interesting for its beautifully finished instrumental lines. Estes had a lot from his own experience: Floating Bridge (Decca 7442, 1937) featured a drowned man, a Brownsville Blues (Decca 7473, 1938), and Lawyer Clark Blues (Bluebird 8871, 1941), with second Brownsville guitarist John Bonds, described local characters. Over the next decade, Estes finally lost his sight and returned from Chicago to Brownsville.

Roots of Rock ‘n’ Roll : Step It Up And Go’ BLIND BOY FULLER (1940)

Further east, in both Carolina, young performers included Buddy Moss and Josh White ‘Blind Boy’ Fuller (Fulton Allen) (born Wadesboro, North Carolina, c. 1909, d. Durham, North Carolina) , 13.02.1941) had the greatest impact. While not the originator of the Oriental or Piedmont blues, Fuller was its most famous exponent.

Influenced by Blind Blake, Buddy Moss and Blind evangelist Gary Davis, he formed an eclectic style with fast guitar lines, swaying ragtime beats, and squeaky vocals, often set against a wash-jerk criss-cross rhythm. Davis accompanied him on the traditional “Rag Mama Rag” (Vocalion 03084, 1935), a song that brought him early success. Fuller was perhaps best at fast, ragtime music like Step It Up And Go (Vocalion 05476, 1940), but he was also a master of slow blues like Weeping Willow (Decca 7881, 1937). He usually played with his fingers, but in “Homesick And Lonesome Blues” (Vocalion 03234, 1935) he used the slide brilliantly. Since the end of 1937 Fuller was constantly played along with the harmonica by the young blind virtuoso Sonny Terry, for example, in “Pistol Slapper Blues” (Vocalion 04106, 1938).

Sonny Terry – Whoopin’ The Blues

Sonny Terry (Sanders Terrell) (born Greensboro, Georgia, 10/24/1911; d. New York, 3/12/1986) was born and raised on a farm. Having lost his eyesight as a child, he played the harmonica on the streets for money. Arriving in North Carolina, he joined Fuller playing in “tobacco” cities, complementing his singing with the groaning, powerful “voice” of the harmonica. In “Harmonica And Washboard Breakdown” (Okeh 055453, 1940), his virtuosity was quite evident. Terry developed a technique of “cross-playing” that surpassed that of his contemporaries, modulating and changing notes, controlling the breath and fingering with his fingers or cupping his hands over the harmonica. He emitted shrill screams and could alternate harmonica and voice without interruption, creating a whole melodic stream.

Brownie McGhee – Born and Livin’ With The Blues

After Fuller’s death, Terry formed a duet with Brownie McGee (born 1915) – a collaboration that was destined to last 35 years – longer than any other blues collaboration. The weeping harmonica and the guttural, sometimes slightly out of tune vocals of Terry were successfully matched by the smooth playing of the guitar and the luscious singing.

There were still plenty of blues artists in Mississippi. Charlie Patton wrote down in the year of his death, but 16 of his themes remained unpublished; Tommy Johnson and Sean House made music but did not record.

Bo Carter was constantly recording, and Tommy Johnson’s accompanist, Joe McCoy, modernized his image and worked with The Harlem Hamfats. While Big Joe Williams pulled out the rough country blues, Johnny Temple sang to various accompaniments, but not all of them were of good quality. By the end of the decade, a new generation of underground bluesmen had emerged, growing up at Patton Brown House. Cruder and more unstoppable than their predecessors, they have become a powerful engine of the southern blues.

Mississippi Fred McDowell – Shake ‘Em On Down

In “New Shake ‘Em Down” (Bluebird 8347, 1939) by Tommy McClennan, “Catfish Blues” (Bluebird 8838, 1941) by Robert Patways, and “Fixin’ To Die Blues” (Vocalion 05588, 1940) by Bacca White, “driving” guitar the accompaniment mingled with the guttural vocals. White was particularly conspicuous; his lyrics were mostly very interesting and the way he used the slide, in particular in imitations of a train – for example in “Special Stream Line” (Vocalion 05526, 1940), sounded extremely effective.

Robert Johnson- Crossroad

Of this new generation, Robert Johnson (born Hazelhurst, Mississippi, c. 1912; d. Greenwood, Miss., 08/16/1938) left the deepest impression with his extremely self-centered, sometimes obsessive blues, sang to the accompaniment of a howling guitar and fluttering rhythm. Ten years younger than Sean House, he was a singer-guitarist who linked the tradition of rural Mississippi blues with modern Chicago.

Robert was directly influenced by Sean House and the recordings of Lonnie Johnson, Leroy Carr and even Kokomo Arnold, he was also familiar with the work of Skip James and Hambon Willie Newborn, whose themes he transformed into “32-20 Blues” (Vocalion 03445, 1936) and “If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day” (Columbia CL 1654, 1936). The latter, not published during his lifetime, revealed one of the aspects of the painful, even prophetic, theme of the disturbing “Hell Hound On My Trail” (Vocalion 03623, 1937).

Robert Johnson – Hellhound On My Trail

Johnson’s voice was tense and often strained, but for greater effect he resorted to falsetto, as in “Kind Hearted Woman” (Vocalion 03510, 1936). The stubborn rhythm of “walking bass” in “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” (Vocalion 03475, 1936) or “Ramblin ‘On My Mind” (Vocalion 03519, 1936) strongly inspired the post-war generation of Bluesmen, including Elmore James, his temporary companion Johnny Shines and his stepson Robert Lockwood. Johnson died a violent death, but his remarkable records, not the legends that grew up around his name, confirm his fame.

— History of Blues Music: Part 4 —

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

© 2022 EduardRomanov, all rights reserved.