Along with it's Jazz counterpart, is the only true American music form. Blues has it's deepest roots in the work songs of the West African slaves in the South. During their back-breaking work in the fields of the Southern plantation owners, black slaves developed a "call and response" way of singing to give rhythm to the drudgery of their servitude. These "field hollers" served as a basis of all blues music that was to follow. Following the end of the Civil war, black men had few options other than back-breaking manual field labor or becoming a traveling minstrel. Many chose the occupation of traveling minstrel playing raucous, all-night country dances, fish-frys, and jukejoints. These musicians relied on their physical stamina and mental repertoire of many blues songs. Although the lyrics of many blues songs are soulful and melancholy, the music as a whole is a powerful, emotive and rhythmic music celebrating the life of black Americans. The lyrics of the songs reflected daily themes of their lives including: sex, drinking, railroads, jail, murder, poverty, hard labor and love lost. Although it is difficult to pin down, one of the first documented blues to be written is W.C. Handy's " Memphis Blues" written in 1909. The popularity of country blues grew among Southern black folks during the teens and 1920's. During the late 1920's, with the advent of the 78 RPM phonograph, some of the more popular country blues artists were recorded by Paramount , Aristocrat and other record labels. During 1941-1943 the famous blues folklorist Alan Lomax made field recordings of bluesmen in their surroundings. This important body of work served to expose white folks to the blues, as well as give the fledgling artists exposure to national, yet segregated record labels. During the Great depression, blacks migrated north along the route of the Illinois Central Railroad toward Chicago. They brought with them blues music, and soon the sound of it filled rowdy urban nightclubs. To compensate for the loud crowds and bigger venues, some of the more inventive performers such as Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, made the switch to electric guitars and added drum sets to their bands. This new electric Chicago blues was more powerful than its predecessor. Blues fell somewhat out of popular favor until the late 1950's. In 1958 The Kingston Trio recorded the number 1 hit, Tom Dooley ,and gave birth to the folk revival. For seven years, from 1959-1966, the Newport Folk Festival reintroduced folk and blues music to a mainstream white American audience. After this time, blues was increasingly merged with rock music to form the rock blues bands of the 1960's and 70's. The Rolling Stones, John Mayall, Led Zeppelin and others carried on the noble tradition of their forefathers, the blues minstrels.
.Jazz is the art of expression set to music! Jazz is said to be the fundamental rhythms of human life and man’s contemporary reassessment of his traditional values. Volumes have been written on the origins of jazz based on black American life-styles. The early influences of tribal drums and the development of gospel, blues and field hollers seems to point out that jazz has to do with human survival and the expression of life. The origin of the word "jazz" is most often traced back to a vulgar term used for sexual acts. Some of the early sounds of jazz where associated with whore houses and "ladies of ill repute." However, the meaning of jazz soon became a musical art form, whether under composition guidelines or improvisation, jazz reflected spontaneous melodic phrasing. Those who play jazz have often expressed the feelings that jazz should remain undefined, jazz should be felt. "If you gotta ask, you’ll never know" ---Louis Armstrong. The standard legend about jazz is that it was conceived in New Orleans and moved up the Mississippi River to Memphis, St. Louis and finally Chicago. Of course that seems to be the history of what we now refer to as jazz, however, the influences of what led to those early New Orleans sounds goes back to tribal African drum beats and European musical structures. "Jazz, like any artistic phenomenon, represents the sum of an addition. The factors of this addition are, to my mind, African music, French and American music and folklore." ---Robert Goffin, 1934. In reviewing the background of jazz one can not overlook the evaluation over the decades and the fact that jazz spanned many musical forms such as spirituals, cakewalks, ragtime and the blues. Around 1891 a New Orleans barber named Buddy Bolden reputedly pitcked up his cornet and blew the first stammering notes of jazz, thereby unconsciously breaking with several centuries of musical tradition. A half-century later, jazz, America’s great contribution to music, crossed the threshold of the universities and became seriously, even religiously considered. Jazz functions as popular art and has enjoyed periods of fairly widespread public response, in the "jazz age" of the 1920s, in the swing era of the late 1930s and in the peak popularity of modern jazz in the late 1950s. Beginning in the 20s and continuing well into the 30s, it was common to apply the word "jazz" rather indiscriminately, melodically or tonally. Thus George Gershwin was called a jazz composer. For Gershwin’s concert work he was acclaimed to have made a respectable art form out of jazz. Somewhat similarly, Paul Whiteman, playing jazz-influenced dance music, was billed as the King of Jazz. Perhaps the broader definition of jazz, such as the one that would include the blues influence as well as those who shared our understanding of the art form, even if they did not perform it, would be the most useful historical approach. "It has always intrigued me, that people like Ma Rainey, Al Jolson and Guy Lombardo are considered a part of jazz history, but they are!" ---Les Paul, 1994. The influence and development of the blues can not be over looked when discussing the early years of jazz. "The blues as such are synonymous with low spirits. Blues music is not. With all its so called blue notes and overtones of sadness, blues music of its very nature and function is nothing if not a form of diversion." ---Albert Murray.