Early Blues

The origins of blues music trace back to 19th century America when enslaved people in the deep south, most notably Louisiana, would sing spirituals in church and work songs whilst working as sharecroppers on plantations. The music established the simple and memorable blues form enabling melodies to be easily spread around communities. Into the 20th century, the musical style began to transform from a tradition, into a documented genre. The musical style became more modernised as music began to be published with Antonio Maggio’s I Got the Blues in 1908, soon followed by Hart Wand’s Dallas Blues and W.C. Handy’s The Memphis Blues. Various regions began to emerge as the leading epicentres of blues, most importantly Memphis and the Mississippi Delta, leading to the aptly named regional styles, Memphis blues and Delta blues. Memphis was central to the early development of the blues, accommodating artists such as W.C. Handy, Memphis Minnie, Frank Stokes, and Gus Cannon. Gus Cannon was notable in popularising the folk-influenced style of jug bands that were prevalent in Memphis with his band Cannon’s Jug Stompers

These bands were typically comprised of a jug player, a guitar, and various modified or homemade instruments such as a washtub bass. Simultaneously, Delta blues was developing as a style that prioritised a simpler arrangement of guitar (often slide guitar) and harmonica accompanying the vocals. Some of the most notable and influential Delta blues musicians include Tommy Johnson, Ishmon Bracey, and Freddie Spruell, who’s Milk Cow Blues is one of the earliest delta blues recordings. This diversification of blues styles lead to a more widespread popularisation, and duke joints, which were bars or lounges that play predominantly blues, began to appear around the country. Blues music is recognisable through its use of the 12-bar blues form that is based on the chords I-IV-V.

Notable artists:

Bessie Smith

W.C. Handy

Charley Patton

Robert Johnson

Frank Stokes

Freddie Spruell

If you want to commission your own music in this style, or would like more information or help, please contact us.