History of Blues. Part-7

Interest in the blues before World War II was minimal; and that scarce information that existed at times turned out to be distorted. However, there were enthusiasts who could sit the performers in front of the recording equipment and introduce them to a white audience.

n 1933, John Hammond, as a spokesman for the British record company Parlophone, arranged for Bassey Smith’s last recording. A few years later, he hoped to track down Robert Johnson to take part in the famous Spirituals to Swing Concert Series at Carnegie Hall in 1938; it turned out that Johnson was no longer alive, and among the speakers were Big Bill Broonzy and Sonny Terry.

The famous blues musician Josh White regularly recorded in the 1940s. As a child, Josh White (Joshua Daniel) (b. Greenville, Carolina, 02/11/1915; d. New York, 09/05/1969), lived among street evangelists and gospel performers in South Carolina cities. From them he heard and memorized many songs and, in the end, began to play the guitar amazingly.

When he was only 13, he sang with Blind Joe Taggart, sang in falsetto and played guitar in “There’s a hand writing on the wall” (Paramount 12717, 1928). In 1932 he began recording on his own, often playing blues under the pseudonym Pinewood Tom, such as “Mean Mistreater Mama” (Banner 32918, 1933). His voice was soft, with a hard fit, which he used successfully and often. By 1940, he firmly established himself in New York, where he performed with his fellow countrymen, with whom he recorded several working songs – “Told my cap’n” (Columbia 35562, 1940), “Southern Exposure” (Keynote 514, 1941).

His work became more and more sophisticated. He popularized folk songs, blues, for example, recorded his version of “The House of the Rising Sun” (ABC Para mount 124, 1957), but over time the blues audience grew cold towards Josh due to his overly commercial approach to music.

Josh White has often worked with Brownie McGee and Sonny Terry, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly. In 1949, Leadbelly performed in France, and in 1951 Big Bill Brunzi was invited there. In Europe, Brunzi performed his old songs in the “country” style, and in the last years of his life he was more a folk singer than a “bluesist”; recorded over 200 songs: his signature songs were “John Henry” (Vogue (F) 118, 1951) and the protest song “Black, Brown And White” (Vogue (F) 125, 1951). Brownie McGee and Sonny Terry made their first appearance in England in 1958, and in the same year Muddy Waters and Otis Spann played in Europe. Interestingly, at first, Waters with his electric guitar was rejected by many listeners, despite the fact that with her help he actually shaped the look of the Chicago blues.

Knowledge of the blues and its widespread acceptance by white audiences was limited by a lack of information about it. Jazz magazines in the US and Europe paid little attention to the blues, and some observers viewed it as an outdated and even decadent tradition.

Although the Library of Congress finally curtailed the field recording campaign, Alan Lomex continued to record the blues. In 1949 he managed to make some interesting work songs at the Parchman Penitentiary. Three years later, Garold Corlander in Livingston, Alabama, recorded a number of church and secular songs, among which was Rich Emerson’s long, stringy unaccompanied blues “Black Woman” (Folkways FE 4417, 1950). Researcher Frederick Ramsey also sought out blues untouched by the influence of commercial recordings. In the process of developing a field recording project in 1951-1957, he became acquainted with the repertoire of Horace Sprott of Alabama, which included several blues without accompaniment, which clearly showed the influence of Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Boy Fuller – “My Little Annie, so Sweet” ( Folkways FA 1659, 1954).

When Lomex returned south and reopened Sea Islands, in Mississippi he “discovered” Fred McDowell, whose powerful blues “Snake ‘Em On Down” (Atlantic 1938, 1959) was accompanied by “slide” guitar playing. Between 1959 and 1961, Harry Oster of Louisiana State University continued the tradition of recordings in state prisons and colonies, focusing more on blues compositions. Among the performers he auditioned throughout Louisiana, the brightest, most creative was Robert Pete Williams (b. Zaheri, Louisiana 3/14/1941; d. Zaheri, Louisiana, 12/31/1980), whose talent is vividly expressed in Death Blues “(Prestige Bluesville 1026, 1960). Williams’ improvisations were marked by an unusually complicated guitar playing style and structurally unrelated stanzas – “Farm Blues” (Ahura Mazda (E) AMS2002, ca. 1976).

Research, based on the position that the blues is music that exists independently, and not as an integral part of folklore or jazz, began in the late 50s. Most of them were based on information about commercial blues performers, and the reevaluation of the creativity of blues performers played an important role here. In 1956, Samuel Charters recorded Gus Canon and Will Slade, and in 1959, Fury Lewis and Laitning Hopkins; a year earlier, Bob Koster had recorded Poor Joe Williams in St. Louis. Several Belgian and French explorers have delved into the blues environments of Detroit and Chicago; they did not record the songs of the performers they interviewed, yet their “talks” provide valuable insight into the urban blues of the time.

In 1960, Paul Oliver made an intensive search for the Bluesmen in Detroit and Chicago, later Chris Strachwitz joined him on his travels to Memphis and Mississippi, and Mack McCormick in Texas. As a result of these voyages, recordings of Sam Chatman, Westley Alex Moore, Black Ace, Lil Sun Jackson, Henry Brown and many other artists appeared, previously recorded only on a commercial basis.

Many unknown performers were also recorded, the most significant of which was Mance Lipscomb (born Navasota, Texas, 04/09/1895; d. Navasota, 01/30/1976). At the age of 66, his voice first appeared on tape – the voice of a representative of the Songster tradition in its purest form. In Texas, he became famous as a tireless dancer (he later played some of them – “Buck Dance” (Reprise 2012, 1961), “Sugar Baby it’s All Over Now” (Arhoole 1001, 1960)) as well as old ballad singer – “Ella Speed ​​u ‘Freddie” (Arhoolie 1000, 1960). For over 40 years he worked as a sharecropper, and in his “Captain Captain” (Reprise 2012, 1961) Mans recalls his work on the plantation – until he got his own farm. As a guitarist, he can be put on a par with the great blues players all of whom have ever recorded.

In addition, his style was influenced by the proximity of his native Texas and Mexico. An example of this is “Spanish Flang Dang” (Arhoole 1023, 1964). As a Catholic, he arranged an old 1908 gospel song “Shine On Harvest Moon” as well as the spiritual “Motherless Children” (Archole 1026, 1964). The hero of the film “A Well Spent Life” (1971), Mance Lipscomb performed successfully at concerts and festivals until 1973, when illness forced him to return home.

In addition to biographies of WC Handy, Ethel Waters, and Big Beela Brunzi, the first blues books appeared between 1959 and 1960. With the growing public interest in this music, the demand for specialized magazines has grown: “Blues Unlimited” (founded in 1963) has been published monthly for 20 years, now 7 times a year; Blues World came out from 1964 to 1973, and Rhythm and Blues Monthly from 1964 to 1966. All of these publications were printed in the UK. Later, blues magazines began to be published in France, Germany, Italy and even in Japan. In the United States, the first regular blues magazine, Living Blues, came out only in 1972. The rise in publications testified to the popularity and international recognition of the blues, as well as an increase in the number of researchers who not only collected recordings, but also sent essays about performers, interviews with them and discography to magazines.

The most important result of research work in the field of blues studies was the rediscovery of many leading performers of the early blues. For example, Slippy John Estes, who came to Brownsville, Tennessee in 1962. With his old companions Hammy Nixon (harmonica) and Yank Rachel (mandolin), he recorded many excellent numbers, among which are “Rats In My Kitchen” (Delmark DL-603, 1962) and “Easin ‘Back To Tennessee” (Storyville (D ), 1964), recorded during a European tour.

Mississippi John Hurt in 1963 still played in a manner very reminiscent of his early, late 20s, things; his most recent recordings include the ballad “Louis Collins” (Piedmont 13157, 1963) and “Candy Man Blues” (Vanguard CRS9220, 1964). Other notable numbers included a version on a frequently used Mississippi theme called “Slidin ‘Delta” (Piedmont 13161, 1964), which featured nimble fingers. Hurt loved the audience for his friendly and gentle playing style. In 1963, he recorded over 90 songs for the US Library of Congress, but soon, tired of the attention of the public and record companies, returned to his homeland, Mississippi.

Perhaps the most remarkable re-discoveries include the appearance on the music scene in 1964 by Sean House. For about ten years he played at festivals, clubs and music colleges, in 1967-1970 he visited Europe. The composition of that time “Empire State Express” (Columbia 2417, 1965) captivates the listener with magical guitar performance and exciting singing. In the mid-70s, ill health forced him to retire, but he will forever be remembered by listeners as the personification of the Delta blues.

In addition to House, the recording sessions again included blues veterans Victoria Spivey and Westley Alex Moore (in 1960), Sippy Wallace (in 1962), Bucka White and Skip James (in 1964).

Between the 60s and the mid 80s, more than a hundred blues books were published, many of which were published outside the United States. Only a few researchers continued to turn to the black music of the Southerners until the 1980s, but they were all white. The study of the blues was and is being conducted mainly by students living outside the African-American environment in which the blues were born and flourished, but who simply have a passion for the music. Along with research, tours and concerts were organized for the performers who became their objects. In the 70s, it became profitable for many Bluesmen to perform exclusively in front of white audiences, and not in “black” clubs. This trend emerged especially clearly when soul musicians and bluesmen, gaining more and more favor with whites, ceased to interest young black audiences. It was also inevitable that the commercialization of music threatened to separate it from the cultural context. When in the late 1960s record companies published blues mainly for collectors and enthusiasts of whites, the preponderance of recordings was given to performers whose work in black shops might not be sold out. As a consequence, the intense recording activity of even talented Bluesmen such as Lightnin Hopkins and Big Joe Williams, revealing their multifaceted talent, did not necessarily reflect their popularity among black audiences.


The lives of black and white people in the south have always been closely intertwined; in towns and cities, whites often worked with blacks.

Under such conditions of their coexistence, the interchange of musical forms was hardly surprising. The music of the generation of songstores, coon songs, ballads, dance tunes, was equally perceived by both white and black performers, since they had the same original source. All of these folk music styles were recorded in both black and white, but the arrangements were different.

By the late 1920s, many white performers were using blues forms frequently; among them were brothers Austin and Lee Allen, whose “Reckless Night Blues” (Victor 40303, 1930) featured a calm guitar and banjo (as a rhythm-setting instrument), as well as a fierce blues harmonica. Their “Chattanooga Blues” (Columbia 14266, 1927) was published in a racial series – an “insult” in their opinion, for which they unsuccessfully sued the company for 250 thousand dollars.

This was not the only such case: the work of Buster And Jack (under this pseudonymous Oklahoma Ridge Runners) Jack Cowley appeared in the Victor racial series. Their Cross Tie Blues (Victor 23540, 1930) was kept in a traditional form, but nonetheless it was relatively standard music performed by a white violin Greater understanding of the black blues was felt in the playing of Frank Hutchinson of Virginia; his “Cannonball Blues” (Okeh 45378, 1929) was a true blues in form and technique.

The main influence on the white blues was Blind Lemon Jefferson, some recordings; for example Match Box Blues “(Vocalion 02678, 1934) by Larry Hensley, seemed to be an open imitation of the great Master. Some white violin groups also recorded blues, such as” Leake Country Revelers “,” Carolina Tar H eels “, as well as country duos” Darby and Tarlton “and” Narmour and Suith “.

The early “white” blues did not attract much attention, but there is evidence of a separate “white” genre characterized by a steady rhythm, with a distinctly rough accent – something that could not be confused with similar features of “black” music, and dispassionate , the narrative manner of performance. Blues was rarely used by whites as a means of expressing feelings, but more often as a free form with descriptive poetry. Traditional texts were quite common and some of them may have belonged to white writers. Blues often hinted at something obscene, sometimes performed with sly self-confidence – as in “Farm Girl Blues” (Victor 23516, 1930), “Gardina Tar Heels” and many other recordings by Clifford Carlisle.

Although Carlisle recognized the influence of black musicians on his style, the main source of inspiration for his playing and singing was Jimmy Rogers (b. Meridian, Mississippi, 09/08/1897; d. New York, 05/26/1933). No white performer has been as respected and loved by blacks as Rogers, who during his short career worked with Frank Stokes and other “songstors” on “medical” shows. In his second session, Rogers sang “Blue Yodel” (Victor 21142, 1927), which combined blues lyrics with a “yodeled” chorus. He used this formula many times – he recorded 13 “Sad Yodels”, besides them, he recorded many other blues. The ease with which he worked with black musicians is evident in “Blue Yodel no. 9” (Victor 23580, 1931), sung with Louis Armstrong. Black performers have repeatedly tried to copy Rogers’ style of performance, in particular his yodels.

Perhaps the most incredible example of a white artist’s collaboration with black musicians was Jimmy Davis, who later became Governor of Louisiana twice. “Down At the Country Church” (Victor 23628, 1931) is a sentimental version of a village service with the hum of religious brotherhood, imitated by a guitar and slide by black musician Eddie Schaeffer. He and Oscar “Buddy” Woods made a wonderful accompaniment to Davis’s “Red Nightgown Blues” (Victor 23659, 1932), which ended with a fast instrumental part.

Close to black traditions, another form of “white” blues is a fairly common “talking” blues. It was first recorded by South Carolina guitarist and auto mechanic Chris Bashllon. His Talking Blues (Columbia 15120-D, 1926) was spoken rather than sung in a laconic, dry manner to the accompaniment of guitar.

Witness and irony were inherent in many of the performers who chose this style, including Lonnie Glosson, whose “Arkansas Hard Luck Blues” (Conqueror 8732, 1936) was spoken against the backdrop of speedy playing. But it was the Oklahoma folk poet Woody Guthrie with his Talkin ‘Dust Bowl Blues (Victor 26619, 1940) that made the style really popular. Guthrie performed in New York in the 40s with Leadbelly, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, as well as other banjo or guitar performers, including Pete Seeger and Big Bill Brunzi, and later, in the 60s, his recordings made a noticeable impact. on Bob Dylan.

Some white musicians worked under contract for “racial” recordings or played along with blues performers. Among them was Eddie Lange, who recorded instrumental duets with Lonnie Johnson, in particular “Have to change Keys to Play these Blues” (Okeh 8637, 1928) and “A Handful of Riffs” (Okeh 8695, 1929). The two bluesmen worked very well with each other, as Lang was an inventive guitarist, albeit rhythmically a little “stiff” compared to Johnson. Lange has accompanied many black bluesmen, including Texas Alexander in his Work Ox Blues (Okeh 8658, 1928), Bassey Smith in her Kitchen Man (Columbia 14435, 1929), as well as with Gladys Bentley, Coot Grant and Sox. Wilson.

Adhering to the canons of the blues, Frank Melrose under the pseudonym “Broadway Rastus” recorded a couple of piano pieces published in the “racial” series: for example, “Woopee Stone” (Paramount 12764, 1929), and other themes (under the pseudonym “Kansas City Frank”) with the band Herb Moranda.

George Barnes’s contribution to the development of blues cannot be overemphasized by playing with mandolin performer Charles McCoy in Big Bill Brunzi’s You Know I got a reason (Conqueror 8767, 1936). He was one of the pioneers of the electric blues guitar and made several recordings as accompanist for Blind John Davis, Jazz Gillam, Sam Washboard and Merlin Johnson, in whose “About my Time to Check” (Vocalion 04150, 1938) Barnes has an excellent, albeit somewhat restrained, solo …

During the boogie-woogie era, many white jazz pianists worked in the blues key, some were successful in blues solo numbers. One of them was Joe Sullivan, whose early fame was brought by “Gin Will Blues” (Columbia 2876 – D, 1933). A few years later, he recorded with the mostly black group, the Cafe Society Orchestra; on “Low Down Dirty Shame” (Vocalion 5531, 1940), Joe Turner sang vocals. Other white pianists such as Stan Wrightsman and Art Hoads, working primarily as jazz musicians, could play good blues solos. Howdes in his style was guided by Jimmy Yancey. However, these modest “forays” of jazzmen into the blues have managed to bring little to the genre.

In the music of the “Western Swing” bands of the 40s, “hot” violin orchestras included jazz, blues, country songs and country music in their repertoire, thus creating a lively but purely superficial synthesis. Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys enjoyed considerable success with the song Steel Guitar Rag / Swing Blues No. 1 (Okeh 03394, 1939), based on music by blues guitarist Sylvester Weaver and lyrics by Blind Lemon Jefferson. Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies are another Western swing orchestra that has taken a lot from the blues to create their own material. However, these bands did not bring anything new to the blues; they only deprived it of its brightness by inept popularization.

The beginning of the 50s was marked by a great interest in the blues of white country musicians. Although the personality of Monroe “Mo” Jackson is shrouded in mystery and the elements of parody in his “Go ‘way from my door” (Mercury 8127, 1951) are expressed only outwardly, the variety of blues technique in his voice and guitar accompaniment is impressive. In his approach to music, there is a possible involvement in “medical” shows in the past. Surely the same experience can be said about “Harmonica” Frank Floyd’e (b. Tucapola, Mississippi, 10/11/1908; d. Memphis, Tennessee, 08/7/1984) who played on the streets, in motels, hairdressers. Being in constant contact with black blues musicians, he was influenced by Fuller’s Blind Boy, as evidenced by the song “Step it Up and Go” (Chess 1475, 1951); while Howlin ‘Tom Cat (Chess 1494, 1951) clearly inspired Bo Carter’s blues. Floyd’s guitar playing was still in line with the white tradition, but his combination of R&B and country guitar makes “Rockin ‘Chair Daddy” (Sun 205, 1954) the first rock and roll recorded by a white performer.

However, he didn’t regain the strength of the jerk after that record — compared to one of the same year at the same studio — That’s All Right (Sun 209, 1954) by Elvis Presley, based on the blues of Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup. Presley’s other Sun songs also came from the blues: Good Rockin Tonight (Sun 210, 19 54) was a tribute to Roy Brown and Winoni Harris, and the accelerated version of Milkcow Blues Boogie (Sun 215, 1954) was hit Kokomo Arnold. For the next several years, Presley continued to sing versions of the standard blues.

Rock and roll performers Karl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent have also made sure to include the blues in their repertoire.

In the late 1950s, the skiffle style became extremely popular in England, and Lonnie Donegan’s song “Rock Island Line” (Decca (E) F 10647, 1955), which was based on Leadbelly’s song, was a success. The term supposedly comes from the songs “Hometown Skiffle” recorded by Paramount All Stars (Paramount 12866, 1947) and “Skiffle Blues” (Arkay 1001, 1947) by pianist Dan Burley and his Skiffle Boys. Donegan’s recording became a hit in the United States, and the following year several hundred skiffle bands emerged with musicians playing “home-grown” instruments such as washboards, jugs, in addition to guitars and harmonica. This scarcity and amateur performance resulted in many uninteresting works, although many musicians who switched to R&B often started with skiffle.

While the Beatles drew inspiration from the popular Detroit version of the rhythm and blues Tamla – Motown, the Rolling Stones turned to the Louisiana blues. In the late 1950s, several members of this group worked at one time with Alexis Corner, who, in turn, played with touring musicians in blues clubs with Cyril Davis, who played the harmonica and 12-string guitar. Starting with a blues style in the manner of Scrapper Blackwell, Corner in 1962 created his own group – “Blues Incorporated”. His approach to music was experimental – for example, in “Blue Monk” (Ace of Hearts (E) ACL 1187, 1963), elements of country blues, Charlie Mingus and Tellonius Monk were intertwined. While the Rolling Stones earned their reputation for playing a sensual and very loud form of rock blues, they could just as well play and sing clean blues like “Little Red Rooster” (Decca TXS101, 1964 ) Lightnin ‘Slim.

Blues-oriented beats also included The Yardbirds and The Who. Perhaps the most respected guitarist in Britain – along with Jimi Hendrix – was Eric Clapton (formerly of The Yardbirds), who joined John Mayall’s Blues Breakers. “All Your Love” (Decca (E) LK4804, 1966), first recorded by Magic Sam, showcased Clapton’s superb guitar playing against Mayol’s piano playing. Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” blues (Polydor (E) 583. 060, 1967), recorded by Clapton with the group “Cream”, reveals the band’s strong side, but also the weakness of Clapton’s voice.

In the United States, the development of the white blues was much the same. Young guitarists imitated the country bluesmen, but there was something completely new in the music of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, in which the leader played the harmonica and Mike Bloomfield the guitar. “I got a mind to Give up Living” (Elektra 7315, 1967) was a slow blues, but the play of black musicians from Chicago – bassist Jerome Arnold and drummer Billy Davenport helped the band get away from the boring rhythm. The band’s weakest point was the vocal line, and yet their blues talent made up for some of this deficiency, as proven by collaborating with Muddy Waters on the slow blues song “Mean Disposition” (Chess SRLS4556, 1969). She confirmed the superiority of the timbre and expressiveness of the voice of the black performer and his mastery of playing the guitar with a slide.

Of the other white American bands that experimented with blues — The Grateful Dead, The Jefferson Airplane, Captain Beefheart — Canned Heat, with guitarists Al Wilson and Henry Westin, was the most capable; their song “Refried Boogie” (Liberty 84001, 1968) lasted about 40 minutes, although most of it was drum solos.

Janis Joplin became the martyr of the white blues. Her passionate, extravagant performances were very expressive, not only because of Janice’s tortured personality, but also because of the choice faced by the white blues; if it were kept within the black tradition, it would be inappropriately limited (since the musical education of many white blues performers allowed to do more than the canons of the genre), but if you expand the scope of white blues, then it will lose its blues authenticity. The combination of instrumental and poetic expression, which for the best black bluesmen was the pinnacle of their achievement, seemed to be rejected by white musicians when they adhered to the blues canon. Many have expanded it into rock music.

The keen interest in the blues for its performers initially hid many advantages; those of them who came on tour to Europe increased the prestige of their names and received more invitations to the United States. A number of musicians, including pianists Jack Dupree, Memphis Slim, Curtis Jones, Eddie Boyd, and guitarist Mickey Baker, settled in Europe with a warmer welcome and an enthusiastic audience. But at the same time, they broke away from the origins and social context of the blues, which could not but affect their work. White interest in black music always foreshadows or coincides with the departure of some black performers from the canons of the genre; when the blues win over white fans they often lose black audiences.


The word Zydeco gets its name from a colloquial Creole French expression “Les haricots ne sont pas salés” meaning “the snap beans aren’t salty” or idiomatically for “the times are hard.”

Only one form of blues can be said to be thoroughly influenced by white music – zydeco or zodico. This style grew out of the dance music of the descendants of the French settlers in Louisiana, who mixed with the Indians and later with the Negroes. They were predominantly hunters, fishermen, and their heirs live in the wetlands of southwestern Louisiana to this day. Their distorted French name is cajuns. Cajun music has taken several forms; in particular, the fais dodo, or country dance, is traditionally performed with an orchestra consisting of accordion, guitar and sometimes violin and rhythm-accompaniment.

Researcher John Lomax, while in Louisiana, recorded black cajun music performers: Alice Evans (harmonica) and Jimmy Lewis (washboard), playing “Cajun Negro Fais Dos-dos Tune” (L. of C., 1934), and French – Negro dances performed by Austin Coleman and Joe Washington Brown, singing unaccompanied in the earliest recorded version of “Les Haricots Sont Pas Sales” (C. LBC13, 1934). Leadbelly also occasionally played the accordion, for example in the country dance theme “Cornbread Rough” (Asch 101, 1942).

In the 1920s, black accordionist Amade ‘Ardoin from Eunice, Louisiana played with fellow sharecropper Dennis McGee and white violinist. Ardon’s repertoire and manner of playing were kept strictly within the cajun tradition and were represented by waltzes and to-steps accompanied by accordion and voice. Regularly playing dances for whites at Ace Place, Eunice, he also did not refuse invitations to black house parties. Ardon became famous both for his playing and for his screaming, “holler” style vocals. In addition to numerous dance tunes, he also recorded many themes that were blues in feel but not in structure, such as “Les Blues de la Prison” (Decca 17014, 1934) (with McGee) and “Les Blues de Voyages” (Bluebird 2189, 1934). One of Ardon’s cousins ​​- Alphonse Ardon – still played essentially cajun music with his black band in the mid-60s – basically all the same waltzes and tu-steps, but also blues-inspired themes, in particular – “Les Blues du Voyageur” ​​and “La Robe Barree” recorded in Louisiana with Ardon (accordion) and Conry Fontenot (violin).

In the 40s and early 50s, blues began to seep more and more into black cajun music, and the post-war rhythm and blues with its swinging rhythm contributed to the creation of a hybrid called “zydeco”. Early recordings include “Bon Ton Roula” (“Let The Good Times Roll”) (Macy’s 5001, 1950) by Clarence Garlow with romance rhythm and English vocals, as well as accordionist Buza Chavis’s hit “Paper in My Shoe” (Folk Star 1197 , 1954). However, the first recordings of zydeco in its blues-cajun form can be considered Clifton Chenier (b. Opelusas, Louisiana, 06/25/1925) “Clifton Blues” (Elko 920, 1954), recorded with his cousin, guitarist Morris “Big “Chénier was a real slow blues. While the cajun performers played a simple 4-step diatonic scale on a push-button accordion, Chenier used a universal (piano) accordion, which allowed him to play in the blues key. He also performed many dance tunes such as “Rockin ‘Accordion” (Zynn 1011, 1961). In 1956, he moved to Houston, Texas, which by then was home to most of the Louisiana French (blacks) and many dance halls where zydeco was performed.

There his younger brother Cleveland Chenier joined Chenier, playing on a corrugated metal washboard that was worn on his chest. Her staccato rhythms, enhanced by drums, are heard on many of Clifton’s best recordings, including his hit “Louisiana Blues” (Bayou 509, 1965). Even more popular was “Black Gal” (Bayou 704, 1966) (with violin part by Morris Chenier), which was based on the blues of the 30s by Joe Pallen. Chenier’s famous dance tunes, such as the fast Tu Le Ton Son Ton (Arhoolie 1082) and the slow, stringy Monfique (Arhoolie 1038, 1967), with their weighted rhythms, were typical of bal de maison music. In the 70s, Chenier toured extensively in the United States and Europe. Recorded in Montreux, Switzerland, “Jambalaya” (Arhoolie 1086, 1975) reflects the broadening of its author’s musical horizons: it has a jazz influence, is enlivened by rock rhythm and is embellished with a guitar solo by Paul Senegal. Undoubtedly, Chenier is the “king” of zydeco, whose talent and improvisational abilities are dedicated to Les Blanc’s film “Hot Pepper” (1973).

Chenier’s leadership in the zydeco genre drew attention away from other artists, many of whom also recorded their songs. The old rustic tradition of violin playing presented by Conry Fontenot is captured in his Bee de la Manche (Arhoolie (F) 5031, 1981), and the music of the Houston dance halls in its primordial power is represented in Sydney’s performance by Baben Albert Chevalier in particular in the later version of “Les haricots Sont Pas Sale” (Arhoolie (F) 1009, 1961). Marcel Dugas was known as an excellent accordionist, recording with a strong band led by violinist Bill Peethe, whose singing style was notably influenced by Jimmy Reed, for example in “Purty Lil Red Dress” (Flyright (E) LP543, 1969). Another accordionist, Elton Rabin, better known as ‘Rockin Dopsie’, has played Lafayette since the 40s; his “Ma Negresse” (Sonet (E) SNTF718, 1975) is typical for its stern push-pull and screaming vocals.

Many other bands playing zydeco were very popular in Louisiana. Alphonse Ardon’s son “Black” Ardon (born 1946), playing a traditional button accordion with an ensemble of violin and electric guitar, demonstrates a strong commitment to the roots of modern zydeco. “Bayou Two Step” (Arhoolie (F) 1091, 1984) is characteristic of this hybrid music, which in the 80’s proved to be the most flourishing of all blues forms.

— History of Blues Music: Part 7 —

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