Blues is for the boys, or is it? I’m delving into the murky waters of blues music as a start in understanding the original swing dance trend, looking for the origin of this genre, understanding the crossover from ragtime, the influence of the record companies on the shaping the music and people. There’s so much to consider – where to begin?
Some great people have given me some steers into places to start the research and given me things to consider. One important thing to do straight away is rip away the romance associated with blues music. The idea of the African American man working on the plantation, dressed in rags and performing on street corners has been perpetuated by the record companies since the early twentieth century, but is this the reality?
Blues music was around much earlier than originally considered. There is a mention of the blues in St Louis in 1892 – an urban environment and decades before many people assume blues originated. Jelly Roll Morton, born in New Orleans in 1885, said blues music was already commonplace there when he was a child, making it a decade before Ma Rainey or W.C Handy came across it up north. Blues music became popular in early teens and twenties when record scouts sought out music from different communities to sell to new markets, therefore increasing their revenue. The actual origins of this music is lost but we can speculate how it came about.
So where did the blues come from? This is going to be practically impossible to discover as it’s a genre created by a people who were largely ignored by the main population at that time. But we do know that the popular early blues singers were women like Ida Smith and Bessie Jackson. Papa Charlie Jackson was billed a singer as good as a woman (Chicago Defender, August 24, 1924) to get audiences interested. Women also wrote a lot of the music, played instruments, and created shows that captivated their audiences.
So where are they now? And what happened to make the switch from a heavily female dominated genre to a male one? The record companies’ influence can’t be denied in how the genre was shaped over the decades, but neither can people’s appetite for this type of music.
Another idea to get away from is the idea this was a sanctified artform – blues artists were the pop musicians of the day, looking to make money. Blues was a genre that people loved to hear and most musicians were happy to give the paying public whatever they wanted.
I’ll keep looking into this. I think I’m only just starting to get to grip with this vast topic….
_Hot club, packed with people all moving to the beat of the band. Couples join during a song, reform for another one; bare skin is slippery._