Thursday, February 26, 2009
Willie Dixon, Memphis Slim, T-Bone Walker Play The Blues!
Blues emerged as an accessible form of self-expression in African-American communities of the United States from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The use of blue notes and the prominence of call-and-response patterns in the music and lyrics are indicative of African influences. The blues influenced later American and Western popular music, as it became the roots of jazz, rhythm and blues, bluegrass and rock and roll.
After World War II and in the 1950s, new styles of electric blues music became popular in cities such as Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis. Electric blues used amplified electric guitars, electric bass, drums, and harmonica played through a microphone and a PA system or a guitar amplifier. Chicago became a center for electric blues in the early 1950s. Chicago blues is influenced to a large extent by the Mississippi blues style, because many performers had migrated from the Mississippi region. Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Jimmy Reed were all born in Mississippi and moved to Chicago during the Great Migration. Their style is characterized by the use of electric guitar, sometimes slide guitar, harmonica, and a rhythm section of bass and drums. J. T. Brown who played in Elmore James's bands, or J. B. Lenoir's also used saxophones, but these were used more as "backing" or rhythmic support than as solo instruments.
Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) are well known harmonica (called "harp" by blues musicians) players of the early Chicago blues scene. Other harp players such as Big Walter Horton were also influential. Muddy Waters and Elmore James were known for their innovative use of slide electric guitar. B. B. King and Freddie King (no relation), who did not use slide guitar, were influential guitarists of the Electric blues style, even though they weren't from Chicago. Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters were known for their deep, "gravelly" voices.
Bassist and composer Willie Dixon played a major role on the Chicago blues scene. He composed and wrote many standard blues songs of the period, such as "Hoochie Coochie Man", "I Just Want to Make Love to You" (both penned for Muddy Waters) and, "Wang Dang Doodle" and "Back Door Man" for Howlin' Wolf. Most artists of the Chicago blues style recorded for the Chicago-based Chess Records label. Other prominent blues labels of this era included J.O.B. Records and Vee-Jay Records.