Blues rock

Last updated

Blues rock is a fusion music genre that combines elements of blues and rock music. It is mostly an electric ensemble-style music with instrumentation similar to electric blues and rock: electric guitar, electric bass guitar, and drums, sometimes with keyboards and harmonica. From its beginnings in the early to mid-1960s, blues rock has gone through several stylistic shifts and along the way it inspired and influenced hard rock, Southern rock, and early heavy metal.

Contents

Blues rock started with rock musicians in the United Kingdom and the United States performing American blues songs. They typically recreated electric Chicago blues songs, such as those by Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, and Jimmy Reed, at faster tempos and with a more aggressive sound common to rock. In the UK, the style was popularized by groups such as the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and the Animals, who put several blues songs into the pop charts. In the US, Lonnie Mack, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and Canned Heat were among the earliest exponents. These bands also "attempted to play long, involved improvisations which were commonplace on jazz records". [3] In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the style became more hard rock oriented. In the US, Johnny Winter, the Allman Brothers Band, and ZZ Top represented a hard rock trend, while Ten Years After, Savoy Brown, and Foghat in the UK pursued a heavier sound.

In the 1980s, more traditional blues styles influenced blues rock, which continues into the 2000s, with more of a return to basics. Along with hard rock, blues rock songs became the core of the music played on album-oriented rock radio in the United States, and later the classic rock format established there during the 1980s. [4]

Characteristics

Blues rock can be characterized by bluesy improvisation, extended boogie jams typically focused on electric guitar solos, and often a heavier, riff-oriented sound and feel to the songs than found in typical Chicago-style blues. Blues rock bands "borrow[ed] the idea of an instrumental combo and loud amplification from rock & roll". [3] It is also often played at a fast tempo, again distinguishing it from the blues. [3]

Blues rock songs often follow typical blues structures, such as twelve-bar blues, sixteen-bar blues, etc. They also use the I-IV-V progression, though there are exceptions, some pieces having a "B" section, while others remain on the I. The Allman Brothers Band's version of "Stormy Monday", which uses chord substitutions based on Bobby "Blue" Bland's 1961 rendition, adds a solo section where "the rhythm shifts effortlessly into an uptempo 6/8-time jazz feel". [5] The key is usually major, but can also be minor, such as in "Black Magic Woman".

One notable difference is the frequent use of a straight eighth-note or rock rhythm instead of triplets usually found in blues. An example is Cream's "Crossroads". Although it was adapted from Robert Johnson's "Cross Road Blues", the bass "combines with drums to create and continually emphasize continuity in the regular metric drive". [6]

1960s–1970s

Eric Clapton in Barcelona, 1974 Eric "slowhand" Clapton.jpg
Eric Clapton in Barcelona, 1974

Rock uses driving rhythms and electric guitar techniques such as distortion and power chords already used by 1950s blues guitarists, particularly Memphis bluesmen such as Joe Hill Louis, Willie Johnson and Pat Hare. [7] [8] Characteristics that blues rock adopted from electric blues include its dense texture, basic blues band instrumentation, [9] rough declamatory vocal style, heavy guitar riffs, string-bending blues-scale guitar solos, strong beat, thick riff-laden texture, and posturing performances. [10] Precursors to blues rock included the Chicago blues musicians Elmore James, Albert King, and Freddie King, who began incorporating rock and roll elements into their blues music during the late 1950s to early 1960s. [11] [12] [13]

1963 marked the appearance of American rock guitar soloist Lonnie Mack, whose idiosyncratic, fast-paced electric blues guitar style [14] came to be identified with the advent of blues rock as a distinct genre. His instrumentals from that period were recognizable as blues or rhythm and blues tunes, but he relied heavily upon fast-picking techniques derived from traditional American country and bluegrass genres. The best-known of these are the 1963 Billboard hit singles "Memphis" and "Wham!". [15] Around the same time, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band was formed. Fronted by blues harp player and singer Paul Butterfield, it included two members from Howlin' Wolf's touring band, bassist Jerome Arnold and drummer Sam Lay, and later two electric guitarists, Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop. [16] In 1965, its debut album, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band was released. AllMusic's Michael Erlewine commented, "Used to hearing blues covered by groups like the Rolling Stones, that first album had an enormous impact on young (and primarily White) rock players." [15] The second album East West (1966) introduced extended soloing – the 13 minute instrumental title track included jazz and Indian raga influences – that served as a model for psychedelic and acid rock. [15] In 1965, avid blues collectors Bob Hite and Alan Wilson formed Canned Heat. Their early recordings focused heavily on electric versions of Delta blues songs, but soon began exploring long musical improvisations ("jams") built around John Lee Hooker songs. [15] Other popular mid-1960s groups, such as the Doors and Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, also adapted songs by blues artists to include elements of rock. Butterfield, Canned Heat, and Joplin performed at the Monterey (1967) and Woodstock (1969) festivals.

In the UK, several musicians honed their skills in a handful of British blues bands, primarily those of Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner. [17] While the early British rhythm and blues groups, such as the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and the Animals, incorporated American R&B, rock and roll, and pop, John Mayall took a more distinctly electric blues approach. [17] In 1966, he released Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton , the first of several influential blues rock albums. [18] When Eric Clapton left Mayall to form Cream, they created a hybrid style with blues, rock, and jazz improvisation, which was the most innovative to date. [19] British band Fleetwood Mac initially played traditionally-oriented electric blues, but soon evolved. [20] Their guitarist Peter Green, who was Clapton's replacement with Mayall, brought many innovations to their music. [21]

The electric guitar playing of Jimi Hendrix (a veteran of many American rhythm and blues and soul groups from the early-mid-1960s) and his power trios, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Band of Gypsys, had a broad and lasting influence on the development of blues rock, especially for guitarists. Clapton continued to explore several musical styles and contributed to bringing blues rock into the mainstream. [17] In the late 1960s, Jeff Beck, with his band the Jeff Beck Group, developed blues rock into a form of heavy rock. [17] Jimmy Page, who replaced Beck in the Yardbirds, followed suit with Led Zeppelin [17] and became a major force in the 1970s heavy metal scene. Other blues rock musicians in the 1970s include Dr. Feelgood, Rory Gallagher and Robin Trower.

Beginning in the early 1970s, American bands such as Aerosmith fused blues with a hard rock edge. Blues rock grew to include Southern rock bands, like the Allman Brothers Band, ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd, while the British scene, except for the advent of groups such as Status Quo and Foghat, became focused on heavy metal innovation. [22]

1980s–present

While blues rock and hard rock shared many similarities in the early 1970s, more traditional blues styles influenced blues rock in the 1980s, [3] when the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughan recorded their best-known works, and the 1990s, which saw guitarists Gary Moore, Jeff Healey, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd become popular concert attractions. Groups such as the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and the White Stripes brought an edgier, more diverse style into the 2000s, while the Black Keys returned to basics.

See also

Related Research Articles

Eric Clapton English musician, singer, songwriter, and guitarist

Eric Patrick Clapton, is an English rock and blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a solo artist and separately as a member of the Yardbirds and of Cream. Clapton has been referred to as one of the most important and influential guitarists of all time. Clapton ranked second in Rolling Stone's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" and fourth in Gibson's "Top 50 Guitarists of All Time". He was also named number five in Time magazine's list of "The 10 Best Electric Guitar Players" in 2009.

Psychedelic rock Style of rock music

Psychedelic rock, also referred to as psychedelia, is a diverse style of rock music inspired, influenced, or representative of psychedelic culture, which is centred on perception-altering hallucinogenic drugs. The music is intended to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs, most notably LSD. Many psychedelic groups differ in style, and the label is often applied spuriously.

Slide guitar Guitar technique

Slide guitar is a technique for playing the guitar that is often used in blues music. It involves playing a guitar while holding a hard object against the strings, creating the opportunity for glissando effects and deep vibratos that reflect characteristics of the human singing voice. It typically involves playing the guitar in the traditional position with the use of a slide fitted on one of the guitarist's fingers. The slide may be a metal or glass tube, such as the neck of a bottle. The term bottleneck was historically used to describe this type of playing. The strings are typically plucked while the slide is moved over the strings to change the pitch. The guitar may also be placed on the player's lap and played with a hand-held bar.

Hard rock or heavy rock is a loosely defined subgenre of rock music typified by a heavy use of aggressive vocals, distorted electric guitars, bass guitar, and drums, sometimes accompanied with keyboards. It began in the mid-1960s with the garage, psychedelic and blues rock movements. Some of the earliest hard rock music was produced by the Kinks, the Who, the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In the late 1960s, bands such as the Jeff Beck Group, Iron Butterfly, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Golden Earring, Steppenwolf and Deep Purple also produced hard rock.

Paul Butterfield American blues singer and harmonica player

Paul Vaughn Butterfield was an American blues harmonica player, singer and band leader. After early training as a classical flautist, he developed an interest in blues harmonica. He explored the blues scene in his native Chicago, where he met Muddy Waters and other blues greats, who provided encouragement and opportunities for him to join in jam sessions. He soon began performing with fellow blues enthusiasts Nick Gravenites and Elvin Bishop.

Electric blues refers to any type of blues music distinguished by the use of electric amplification for musical instruments. The guitar was the first instrument to be popularly amplified and used by early pioneers T-Bone Walker in the late 1930s and John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters in the 1940s. Their styles developed into West Coast blues, Detroit blues, and post-World War II Chicago blues, which differed from earlier, predominantly acoustic-style blues. By the early 1950s, Little Walter was a featured soloist on blues harmonica using a small hand-held microphone fed into a guitar amplifier. Although it took a little longer, the electric bass guitar gradually replaced the stand-up bass by the early 1960s. Electric organs and especially keyboards later became widely used in electric blues.

British blues is a form of music derived from American blues that originated in the late 1950s, and reached its height of mainstream popularity in the 1960s. In Britain, it developed a distinctive and influential style dominated by electric guitar and made international stars of several proponents of the genre including The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin.

Roots rock is rock music that looks back to rock's origins in folk, blues and country music. It is particularly associated with the creation of hybrid subgenres from the later 1960s including blues rock, country rock, Southern rock, and swamp rock which have been seen as responses to the perceived excesses of dominant psychedelic and developing progressive rock. Because roots music (Americana) is often used to mean folk and world musical forms, roots rock is sometimes used in a broad sense to describe any rock music that incorporates elements of this music. In the 1980s, roots rock enjoyed a revival in response to trends in punk rock, new wave and heavy metal music.

<i>Five Live Yardbirds</i> 1964 live album by the Yardbirds

Five Live Yardbirds is the live debut album by English rock band the Yardbirds. It features the group's interpretations of ten American blues and rhythm and blues songs, including their most popular live number, Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightning". The album contains some of the earliest recordings with guitarist Eric Clapton.

<i>Having a Rave Up with The Yardbirds</i> 1965 studio album / live album by the Yardbirds

Having a Rave Up with the Yardbirds, or simply Having a Rave Up, is the second American album by English rock group the Yardbirds. It was released in November 1965, eight months after Jeff Beck replaced Eric Clapton on guitar. It includes songs with both guitarists and reflects the group's blues rock roots and their early experimentations with psychedelic and hard rock. The title refers to the driving "rave up" arrangement the band used in several of their songs.

<i>Truth</i> (Jeff Beck album) 1968 studio album by Jeff Beck

Truth is the debut studio album by English guitarist Jeff Beck, released in 29 July 1968 in the United Kingdom on Columbia Records and in the United States on Epic Records. It introduced the talents of his backing band the Jeff Beck Group, specifically Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, to a larger audience, and peaked at number 15 on the Billboard 200.

Shapes of Things Song first recorded by the Yardbirds in 1966

"Shapes of Things" is a song by the English rock group the Yardbirds. With its Eastern-sounding, feedback-laden guitar solo and anti-war/pro-environmental lyrics, several music writers have identified it as the first popular psychedelic rock song. It is built on musical elements contributed by several group members in three different recording studios in the US and was the first Yardbirds' composition to become a record chart hit. When it was released as a single on 25 February 1966, the song reached number three in the UK and the top-ten in the US and Canada.

New Orleans blues is a subgenre of blues that developed in and around the city of New Orleans, influenced by jazz and Caribbean music. It is dominated by piano and saxophone, but also produced guitar bluesmen. Major figures in the genre include Professor Longhair and Guitar Slim, who both had regional, R&B and even mainstream chart hits.

Good Morning, School Girl Blues standard first recorded by John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson

"Good Morning, School Girl" is a blues standard which has been identified as an influential part of the blues canon. Pre-war Chicago blues vocalist and harmonica pioneer John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson first recorded it in 1937. Subsequently, a variety of artists have recorded versions of the song, usually calling it "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl".

This article includes an overview of the events and trends in popular music in the 1960s.

British rhythm and blues was a musical movement that developed in the United Kingdom between the late 1950s and the early 1960s, and reached a peak in the mid-1960s. It overlapped with, but was distinct from, the broader British beat and more purist British blues scenes, attempting to emulate the music of American blues and rock and roll pioneers, such as Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. It often placed greater emphasis on guitars and was often played with greater energy.

Popular music of the United States in the 1960s became innately tied up into causes, opposing certain ideas, influenced by the sexual revolution, feminism, Black Power and environmentalism. This trend took place in a tumultuous period of massive public unrest in the United States which consisted of the Cold War, Vietnam War, and Civil Rights Movement.

The Yardbirds English blues and psychedelic rock band

The Yardbirds are an English rock band, formed in London in 1963. The band's core lineup featured vocalist and harmonica player Keith Relf, drummer Jim McCarty, rhythm guitarist/bassist Chris Dreja and bassist/producer Paul Samwell-Smith. The band is known for starting the careers of three of rock's most famous guitarists, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck, all of whom ranked in the top five of Rolling Stone magazine's list of 100 greatest guitarists. The band had a string of hits throughout the mid-1960s, including "For Your Love", "Heart Full of Soul", "Shapes of Things", and "Over Under Sideways Down".

References

  1. Weinstein 2000, p. 14.
  2. Christe 2004, p. 1.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Blues-Rock". AllMusic . Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  4. Pareles, Jon (June 18, 1986). "Oldies on Rise in Album-Rock Radio". Nytimes.com . Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  5. Poe 2006.
  6. Headlam 1997, pp. 63–71.
  7. Palmer 1992, pp. 24–27.
  8. Palmer 1980, p. 12: "Black country bluesmen made raw, heavily amplified boogie records of their own, especially in Memphis, where guitarists like Joe Hill Louis, Willie Johnson (with the early Howlin' Wolf band) and Pat Hare (with Little Junior Parker) played driving rhythms and scorching, distorted solos that might be counted the distant ancestors of heavy metal."
  9. Campbell & Brody 2007, pp. 80–81.
  10. Campbell & Brody 2007, p. 201.
  11. Dicaire 1999.
  12. Glover, Tony. "Elmore James Induction essay". Rockhall.com . Retrieved May 5, 2021.
  13. Santelli 1997, pp. 377-378.
  14. Guterman 1992, p. 34.
  15. 1 2 3 4 Prown & Newquist 1997, p. 25.
  16. Erlewine 1996, pp. 40–42.
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 Eder 1996, pp. 376–378.
  18. Guralnick 1989, p. 27.
  19. Adelt 2011, pp. 72–73.
  20. Unteberger 1996, pp. 85–87.
  21. Brackett 2007, p. 25.
  22. Prown & Newquist 1997, p. 113.

Bibliography