Love the Blues like we do? Then you’ll enjoy this Blues “primer” from Ronnie Stewart, USA Blues Master Musician. Like us on Facebook, and experience our full catalog of Master Musicians from around the globe!
Ronnie Stewart, a guitarist turned historian, has been dedicated to promoting the Blues for many years. Stewart is the founder, executive director and music historian for the Bay Area Blues Society located in Oakland, California.
The Blues as a musical style originated during the 1800′s on slave-owning plantations in the South. Influenced by music from their countries of origin, enslaved Africans would sing spiritual hymns and work chants while they were laboring in the fields. The songs evolved from hymns into a method called “call and response”, where the lyrics often voiced personal sorrow and hardship and served as an emotional release for both the singers and the “audience” (or the responding groups). The name “the Blues” actually comes from a folk saying about “having a bout of the blue devils,” which meant “to be sad or depressed.” In the 1930′s, the Blues spread to the Midwest, and later evolved into a different musical genre called Rhythm and Blues, which in turn eventually led to Rock and Roll.
There are several different styles of Blues music today. The Delta Blues is one of the original styles of Blues, which began in the Mississippi Delta region of the country, popularizing the harmonica and the slide guitar. Several other variations of the Blues exist, and have evolved specifically in different regions of the United States. During the early 1900′s, African American workers who migrated to the northern cities added electric guitar, saxophone and piano to the Delta Blues, adding a whole new flavor to this musical genre in regions such as Chicago and Detroit. The Louisiana Blues, however, tends to have a more laid-back rhythm and uses guitar and harmonica with a lot of echo. The Texas Blues draws on swing and jazz influences. In the 1940′s, the Texas region developed Boogie-Woogie, a rhythmic way of playing Blues piano, influenced by a popular musical style of the time, called ragtime.