The "delta blues" area of Mississippi around Clarksdale is not the geographical delta of the Mississippi River as this lies 350 miles south in Louisiana to the south of New Orleans. Instead the "delta blues" area is the agricultural and farming area on the alluvial plain of the lower Mississippi River near Clarksdale not the delta.
It supported the farms, cotton and sharecropping where the early blues players worked and entertained themselves.
Blues is a musical form and genre that originated in African-American communities in the "Deep South" of the United States around the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The blues form, ubiquitous in jazz, rhythm and blues and rock and roll, is characterized by the call-and-response pattern and specific chord progressions, of which the twelve-bar blues is the most common. The blue notes are also an important part of the sound. Blues shuffles or walking bass reinforce the trance-like rhythm and form a repetitive effect called a groove.
Blues as a genre possesses other characteristics such as lyrics, bass lines, and instruments. The lyrics of early traditional blues verses consisted of a single line repeated four times. It was only in the first decades of the 20th century that the most common current structure became standard: the so-called AAB pattern, consisting of a line sung over the four first bars, its repetition over the next four, and then a longer concluding line over the last bars. Early blues frequently took the form of a loose narrative, often relating troubles experienced within African American society.
Many blues elements, such as the call-and-response format and the use of blue notes, can be traced back to the music of Africa. The origins of the blues are also closely related to the religious music of the Afro-American community, the spirituals. The first appearance of the blues is often dated to after emancipation and, later, the development of juke joints. It is associated with the newly acquired freedom of the enslaved people. Chroniclers began to report about blues music at the dawn of the 20th century. The first publication of blues sheet music was in 1908. Blues has since evolved from unaccompanied vocal music and oral traditions of slaves into a wide variety of styles and sub-genres. Blues sub-genres include country blues, such as Delta and Piedmont, as well as urban blues styles such as Chicago and West Coast blues. World War II marked the transition from acoustic to electric blues and the progressive opening of blues music to a wider audience, especially white listeners. In the 1960s and 1970s, a hybrid form called blues rock evolved.
Juke joint (or jook joint or barrelhouse) is a road-side cafe/bar and establishment featuring music, dancing, gambling, and drinking.
Juke joints were often found at rural crossroads and catered to the rural work force such as plantation workers and sharecroppers needing a place to relax and socialize. They were barred from most white establishments. Juke joints were set up on the outskirts of town, often in ramshackle buildings or private houses. Juke joints offered food, drink, dancing and gambling for weary workers. Owners made money selling groceries or moonshine to patrons, or providing cheap room and board.
Some early blues players worked on the farms in the Mississippi "delta" area and played for enjoyment but others were itinerant blues musicians earning money playing at local parties. juke joints and other locations. Blind people became musicians as the only way to earn money and many of the early blues musicians were blind.
All Music Guide to the Blues:
The Definitive Guide to the Blues
History of the acoustic guitar: blues
The earliest exponents of acoustic guitar blues include Charley Patton, Son House and Willie Brown. Patton had been born in southern Mississippi before the turn of the 20th century and was playing around the Southern states by 1914, singing songs such as Down The Dirt Road Blues and Pony Blues.
A box-set consisting of eleven CDs, one DVD and a full colour book, including paintings by the artist, liner notes and song lyrics. The album is an ambitious project with the 137 songs recorded over the course of 1½ years with a work schedule - according to Chris Rea himself - of twelve hours a day, seven days a week.
The project was inspired by Bill Wyman's "Blues Odyssey" and is an "odyssey" depicting a journey through the various epochs of blues music, starting at its African origins and finishing with modern-time blues from the 1960s and 1970s.
Blues music originated in African-American communities in the "Deep South" of the United States around the end of the 19th century, circa 1880.
The Delta blues originated in the lower Mississippi River among black musicians who lived and worked on the farms in the north of Mississippi. It drew influences from church songs, prison songs, African rhythms, and early American folk traditions. The dominant instrument was slide guitar, primarily steel guitar, and the human voice.
Some early blues players were buskers earning a living playing at plantations, on the streets, outside bars, at the crossroads and at railway stations.
The music was performed at parties, honky tonks and local bars, and even at festivities hosted by and for the white farm owners. Eventually, some artists went on to record albums, known at the time as “race records”, that were popular in their time.
Delta Blues incorporate complex vocal rhythms and syncopation and are spoken, sung, and “hollered.” Songs were about life, love and the hardships of being black in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century American South.
The delta blues eventually branched into other blues styles, including Memphis and Chicago styles, and later played a key role in british rock music, influencing key musicians like Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, and many more.
Opening in 1959 the Ealing Jazz Club was in a basement room opposite Ealing Broadway station, London. On March 17th 1962 the Ealing Blues Club opened in that small basement room and began a chain of events that changed the musical world.
British blues derived from American blues that originated in the late 1950s and reached its height of popularity in the 1960s inspired by Alexis Korner and John Mayall. It then developed a distinctive and influential style dominated by electric guitar with the likes of The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin.
Many of these artists moved into rock music and as a result British blues formed part of rock music. Many of the performers have returned to their blues roots in recent years and there has been a renewed interest in blues music.
His recording of 'Dark Was The Night' was placed aboard the Voyager Interstellar mission spacecrafts of 1977 along with music by Beethoven and Chuck Berry (Johnny B. Goode) as part of the "Music From Earth".
King Biscuit Time is the longest-running daily radio show in history, and is broadcast daily on Delta Broadcasting’s KFFA 1360 AM in Helena, Arkansas. First broadcast on 21st November 1941, King Biscuit Time featured legendary blues artists Sonny Boy Williamson (Alex Miller) and Robert Jr. Lockwood playing live in the studio.
The show was named after the locally distributed King Biscuit Flour. The distributor agreed to sponsor a radio production for Sonny Boy and his band if they agreed to endorse the flour.
The original band, the King Biscuit Entertainers, often included boogie pianist Pinetop Perkins and James Peck Curtis on drums. It was the first regular radio show to feature blues and influenced four generations of delta blues artists and three generations of rock artists whose sounds are based on the blues.
In keeping with its tradition of broadcasting live music from the studio, King Biscuit Time still welcomes artists in the studio almost weekly.
A railroad crossing where the Southern railroad tracks crossed the Yazoo Delta railroad in Moorhead, Mississippi.
The Southern was a railroad later bought by the Illinois Central and for many in the Delta was the road out of poverty to Chicago. Another railroad, the Yazoo Delta, was more popularly known as the Yellow Dog or YD.
Immortalised in a Henry Sloan song, "Where the Southern Cross the Dog", and heard at Tutwiler, Mississippi, by W.C. Handy in 1903.
The location appears to be close to 917 W Delta Ave,Moorhead, MS 38761.
I'm Going Where the Southern Cross the Dog (by Henry Sloan)
High Water Everywhere - Charley Patton
Many important recordings in blues history were made at the studios of Paramount Records, located on the grounds of the Wisconsin Chair Company factory at Grafton.
Paramount Records was founded by the Wisconsin Chair Company in 1917, during an era when 78rpm records were often sold at furniture stores to promote sales of phonographs and phonograph cabinets.
Paramount recorded a wide range of music, but is most famous for the blues recordings it began making in 1922.
In 1926 Paramount introduced a new phase in blues recording history when the success of its releases by Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Blake revealed a market for male singers who accompanied themselves on guitar.
Between 1929 and 1932 Mississippi-born blues pioneers including Charley Patton, Tommy Johnson, Skip James, Son House, the Mississippi Sheiks, Willie Brown and Henry Townsend travelled north to record there.
A record pressing plant was established at Grafton, and recordings were initially produced at its New York Recording Laboratories studio in New York City, and later in Chicago. In 1929 a studio was opened at the facility in Grafton.
Due to the Great Depression, Paramount stopped recording in 1932, and closed down in 1935. Many of Paramount's metal masters were sold for their scrap metal value due to the depression. Some of the company's recordings were reportedly thrown into the Milwaukee River by disgruntled employees when the record company was closing down due to the Freat Depression.
Although there were blues in other areas such as Piedmont and Texas the primary area was the Mississippi "delta" area. The blues map can be traced north from the "delta" to nearby Memphis and then further north as a result of the Depression to the prosperous area of Chicago.
Mississippi delta blues around Clarksdale
The delta blues started in the rural area of Mississippi around Clarksville. This area was the alluvial plain of the Mississippi river with soil carried down river to provide the best agricultural soil in the world. This supported farming, cotton on the plantations and share cropping. In this rural area there were few large towns.
The "delta" blues area is not the geographical delta of the Mississippi River as this lies 300 miles to the south in Louisiana and to the south of New orleans.
Memphis was an urban area and affluent city around 100 miles to the north of the "delta blues" area.
A significant population movement after the Great Depression in 1932 took the ep[icentre of the blues to Chicago.
"One day of pickin' cotton - made you want to play music"
Sonny Burgess, Sun recording artist
Music in those days provided an outlet for many in the Delta. Most folks grew up poor picking cotton by day and listening to the radio at night to the various country and hillbilly acts on the Grand Ole Opry or rhythm and blues on stations out of Memphis.
"There wasn't a whole lot to do back then," Burgess said.
The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 badly affected the "delta" blues areas of Mississippi and many other states. South of Memphis the Mississippi River reached 60 miles wide!
The song "When the Levee Breaks" is a blues song written and recorded by husband and wife Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie in 1929. The song is in reaction to the upheaval caused by the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. It was re-worked by Led Zeppelin partially based on the original recording.
Clarksdale, Mississippi has long been described as "Ground Zero" for blues aficionados from around the globe. It all started here. That's why the Ground Zero Blues Club was created — to celebrate the area's rich blues heritage and to provide a forum in which it can continue.
The White Stripes, Jack and Meg White, played their last proper gig together on the 31st July 2007 at the Snowden Grove Amphitheater in Southaven, Mississippi. It featured covers of Robert Johnson, Son House and Leadbelly songs and was released under the limited edition title 'Live In Mississippi' in 2011.