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with guitar, banjo, piano, drums and bass. Considered "Mother of the
Blues," Ma Rainey traveled the vaudeville circuits with the Rabbit Foot
Minstrels as a girl, and later helped launch the career of Bessie Smith.
Lively and upbeat, hokum was also associated with "hot jazz". Hokum
style music played on a piano was eventually called "honky-tonk." The
hokum sound is illustrated by bottleneck guitarist blues great Tampa
Red (1904-1981), who formed a band called the "Hokum Boys" with
pianist "Georgia" Tom (1899-1993) in the late 1920s. Another classic
example of a hokum is from the influential Robert Johnson (1911-
1938) and his song, "They're Red Hot." The hokum genre is where
jazz and blues intersected for a period while still following their
separate paths.
The idea of blues as a separate genre occurred sometime after the
black migration from rural to urban areas in the 1920s and the
simultaneous development of the recording industry. "BLUES"
became an industry code word for a record designed to sell to black
listeners. In 1923 Sylvester Weaver (1897-1960) was the first to record
the slide guitar style in which a guitar is fretted with a knife blade or
the sawed-off neck of a bottle. In the late 1960s, blues-rock guitarist
Duane Allman (1946-1971) would use an empty Coricidin bottle. The
(Mississippi) Delta blues was a rootsy, sparse, almost folk style, with
passionate vocals accompanied by what became the most essential of
all components, the slide guitar. The sound migrated to Chicago where
Chess records recorded the peak of blues prominence from 1956 to
1965. During WWII the rest of the world had been exposed to
American music. The French loved jazz and Britain warmly welcomed
the blues. The Blues directly influenced and fueled the "British
Invasion" of rock music to America during the late 1960's.
Muddy Waters:
Muddy Waters on Chess, Vol. 1
James Elmore:
Best of the Blues
Various Artists: Ken Burns Jazz (DVD collection)
Etta James:
Burnin' Down the House
Various Artists:
Women in Blues (collection)
Robert Johnson:
The Complete Recordings
For more information, and a link to the library collection,
please visit the website at: