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What is traditional blues?

AndyB

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Durham, NC, USA
Clapton Unplugged is one of my favourite albums.

Hippy Hippy shakes, is a 12 bar format where waking up in the morning isn't mentioned or repeated. Is rock and roll modern blues?
I think that Rock & Roll, County Blues, R&B and Rockabilly all developed out of blues starting at Sun Studio in Memphis, Tn.
 

AndyB

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Durham, NC, USA
Thanks for all the great input folks. So, I am abandoning the term "traditional blues" that I've heard and used for many decades. So what do we call pre-1960 blues that are played by living people and still appreciated by the general public? So many horn players call them "guitar blues" and I think that term is slightly pejorative and sour grapes that they are mostly not in horn-friendly keys. Guitar players call them "real blues" but I think that term is loaded with negative connotations too. There are even guitar instructional books with that title. This is an honest question ;)
 
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turf3

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Earth
Well, I'd use the terms for the subdivisions - as, Chicago blues, Delta blues, etc.

And as far as rock and roll, I'd respectfully submit that it pre-dates Sun Studios by close on to 10 years, maybe more. It's not easy to find a clear dividing line between "rock and roll" and the work of Louis Jordan, Ike Turner/Jackie Brenston, Cab Calloway, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Big Jay McNeely, Big Mama Thornton, etc. It's an old trope that rock and roll came from a combination of country music and rhythm and blues, but when I listen to the people listed above, I hear straight up rock and roll. I don't think having white singers suddenly turned it from rhythm and blues to rock and roll.
 

AndyB

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Durham, NC, USA
Well, I'd use the terms for the subdivisions - as, Chicago blues, Delta blues, etc.

And as far as rock and roll, I'd respectfully submit that it pre-dates Sun Studios by close on to 10 years, maybe more. It's not easy to find a clear dividing line between "rock and roll" and the work of Louis Jordan, Ike Turner/Jackie Brenston, Cab Calloway, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Big Jay McNeely, Big Mama Thornton, etc. It's an old trope that rock and roll came from a combination of country music and rhythm and blues, but when I listen to the people listed above, I hear straight up rock and roll. I don't think having white singers suddenly turned it from rhythm and blues to rock and roll.
I am basing my statement solely on the biography of Sam Phillips of Sun Records that my daughter gave me as a birthday present. That book claims that R&R sprang out of Jerry Lee Lewis' sessions there in the mid-50s. Please feel free to educate me on what you know about it. But I would call Louis Jordan jump blues instead of R&R but that's fuzzy.

Chess soon stole many of those artists from Sun and the focus shifted gradually from Memphis to West Memphis and then to Chicago. In the biography of Howlin Wolf he claimed to have sold the same songs in all 3 cities.

An interesting side-note from that book that you might enjoy was Phillips recounting the management problems that he faced in the segregated south when his artists showed up for performances. He says that promoters actually expected Elvis Presley to be black and Chuck Berry to be white. :)
 

mizmar

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Trondheim, Norway
Very philosophical... so...

"exists" is a very dodgy word. Does "Delta Blues" 'exist'? Well, yes, in the sense that there's a collection of musical ideas, recordings, historical stories, sheet music, people etc. we associate with that idea. Some of those stories are not 100% historically accurate, some of those recordings have more production input than one might imagine etc... But it doesn't matter. That genre is what we make of it.

So, There is a genre "real blues" it's what you find in books or Youtubes with titles like "How to play real blues", has a history and so on. and, of course, people discussing it on discussion bords. It's just as real... only one should be careful not to think the name means "authentic in a strict historical sense"... which is fine. Very little history is accurate.
 

AndyB

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Durham, NC, USA
Well, I'd use the terms for the subdivisions - as, Chicago blues, Delta blues, etc.
I respect your opinion. The problem that I have is that after being a blues person for a long, long time, I have met and played music with many people who have radically-different definitions for those terms. For example, to different people that I have met the term "Chicago Blues" can mean:

1) A legacy of musical publishing/recording that actually started in Memphis and West Memphis before it arrived in Chicago.

2) Any blues played with a guitar in an ensemble instead of solo.

3) Any blues played using electric instruments. "Muddy Waters he invented electricity."

4) Any blues using advanced harmonic techniques including ninths, thirteens and chromatic harmonic movement. The T Bone Walker influence.

5) Recordings of specific artists.

6) Arrangements where guitar doubles the bassline.

7) Recordings from a specific time period. Esp 1945-1965

8) Any blues including saxophones and/or amplified-blues harp.

9) Any blues based on the Jimmy Reed shuffle rhythm.

10) Arrangements based on what bass players call the uptown and downtown box shuffle grooves.

11) Any blues published/recorded physically in the city of Chicago

It's a mess :(


EDIT. For example some people consider T-Bone Walker as Chicago blues since he once recorded in Chicago. Others consider him as Texas-blues because he was born in Texas. Stevie Ray Vaugh borrowed a lot of Jimmy Reed "Chicago-blues" ideas, recorded them and they became "Texas-blues." It's a mess :(
 
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Dr G

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Northern California
I was upset when “Unplugged” came out. I was a great fan of blues artists including Dave Van Ronk, Paul Geremia, and Rory Block - musicians who committed their lives to living out of a car, touring to take roots blues to live audiences. Then comes along Eric Clapton, who seemed to say “Oooh, now I’ve bought myself an acoustic guitar - listen to me!”
 

turf3

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Well, other than his electric guitar skills, Clapton's pretty much an ass and has been his whole life. He's just adding to his credentials right now as he attempts to convince people he's an epidemiologist too.
 

AndyB

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383
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Durham, NC, USA
Very philosophical... so...

"exists" is a very dodgy word. Does "Delta Blues" 'exist'? Well, yes, in the sense that there's a collection of musical ideas, recordings, historical stories, sheet music, people etc. we associate with that idea. Some of those stories are not 100% historically accurate, some of those recordings have more production input than one might imagine etc... But it doesn't matter. That genre is what we make of it.

So, There is a genre "real blues" it's what you find in books or Youtubes with titles like "How to play real blues", has a history and so on. and, of course, people discussing it on discussion bords. It's just as real... only one should be careful not to think the name means "authentic in a strict historical sense"... which is fine. Very little history is accurate.
Thanks. But I didn't follow what you meant by "exists". Keb Mo and Taj Mahal among others still perform what I would consider Delta Blues. Is that what you mean?

That term "real" blues is about the same as what I used to call "traditional" blues. But it seems both terms are flawed.
 

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