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Blues is a musical genre generally based on the use of the
blues chord progressions and the designated "blue notes." Of course
there is much more to blues than just the common twelve-bar blues
chord progressions. The first appearance of the blues is not well
documented and is often dated as the period after the Emancipation
Act in 1863. The blues emerged at the end of the 19th century after
years of merging with numerous genres of music including spirituals,
rhymed ballads, work songs or field hollers, and African shouts or
chants. The blues have since influenced most all Western popular
music, including jazz, rhythm and blues, country, and especially rock
and roll. In 1912, Hart Wand's "Dallas Blues" became the first
copyrighted blues composition to be published. Others followed.
Blues music as it was before the 1920s is difficult to categorize as
blues. Most songs were actually precursors to the blues, although
often, the word "Blues" was in the song title. The recordings of artists
such as Lead Belly (1888-1949) or Henry Thomas (1874-1950s?)
provide a rare insight to the kind of music which preceded what
eventually became the blues. Closely related to ragtime, the blues
evolved from unaccompanied vocal musical traditions of West African
slaves brought to America, yet no specific African musical form has
been identified as the single direct ancestor of the blues.
There are very few characteristics common to all blues music. During
the first twenty to thirty years blues music was not clearly defined in
terms of a chord progression. There were many blues in 8-bar form,
such as "How Long Blues" by Leroy Carr (1905-1935), the widely
recorded "Trouble in Mind" written by Richard M. Jones (1892-1945),
and the Big Bill Broonzy (1898-1958) song, "Key to the Highway". By
the late 1930s 12-bar blues became the unofficial standard although
there would also be 16-bar blues, as in the instrumental, "Sweet 16
Bars," by Ray Charles (1930-2004.)
The blues became more identified with the increased popularity of
hokum, a "colorful" style of music popular in the 1920s and 1930s.
Often depicting African-American plantation life in a derogatory
manner, hokum songs were fast-paced, bawdy, and comical with
sexually suggestive, and sometimes explicit lyrics. Predominantly the
accompanying music for the song and dance black-faced minstrel and
vaudeville shows of that time period, hokum songs were usually played