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|Cultural origins||1910s–1930s, Memphis, Tennessee, United States|
The Memphis blues is a style of blues music created from the 1910s to the 1930s by musicians in the Memphis area, like Frank Stokes, Sleepy John Estes, Furry Lewis and Memphis Minnie. The style was popular in vaudeville and medicine shows and was associated with Beale Street, the main entertainment area in Memphis, W. C. Handy, the "Father of the Blues", published the song "The Memphis Blues". In lyrics, the phrase has been used to describe a depressed mood.
Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1870s by African Americans from roots in African musical traditions, African-American work songs, and spirituals. Blues incorporated spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts, 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, the blues scale and specific chord progressions, of which the twelve-bar blues is the most common. Blue notes, usually thirds, fifths or sevenths flattened in pitch are also an essential part of the sound. Blues shuffles or walking bass reinforce the trance-like rhythm and form a repetitive effect known as the groove.
Memphis is a city located along the Mississippi River in southwestern Shelby County, Tennessee, United States. The 2017 city population was 652,236, making Memphis the largest city on the Mississippi River, the second most populous city in Tennessee, as well as the 25th largest city in the United States. Greater Memphis is the 42nd largest metropolitan area in the United States, with a population of 1,348,260 in 2017. The city is the anchor of West Tennessee and the greater Mid-South region, which includes portions of neighboring Arkansas and Mississippi. Memphis is the seat of Shelby County, the most populous county in Tennessee. As one of the most historic and cultural cities of the southern United States, the city features a wide variety of landscapes and distinct neighborhoods.
Frank Stokes was an American blues musician, songster, and blackface minstrel, who is considered by many musicologists to be the father of the Memphis blues guitar style.
In addition to guitar-based blues, jug bands, such as Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers and the Memphis Jug Band, were extremely popular practitioners of Memphis blues. The jug band style emphasized the danceable, syncopated rhythms of early jazz and a range of other folk styles. It was played on simple, sometimes homemade, instruments such as harmonicas, violins, mandolins, banjos, and guitars, backed by washboards, kazoo, guimbarde and jugs blown to supply the bass.
Gustavus "Gus" Cannon was an American blues musician who helped to popularize jug bands in the 1920s and 1930s. There is uncertainty about his birth year; his tombstone gives the date as 1874.
The Memphis Jug Band was an American musical group active from the mid-1920s to the late 1950s. The band featured harmonica, kazoo, fiddle and mandolin or banjolin, backed by guitar, piano, washboard, washtub bass and jug. They played slow blues, pop songs, humorous songs and upbeat dance numbers with jazz and string band flavors. The band made the first commercial recordings in Memphis, Tennessee, and recorded more sides than any other prewar jug band.
Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States. It originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".
After World War II, as African Americans left the Mississippi Delta and other impoverished areas of the South for urban areas, many musicians gravitated to the blues scene in Memphis, changing the classic Memphis blues sound. Musicians such as Howlin' Wolf, Willie Nix, Ike Turner, and B.B.King performed on Beale Street and in West Memphis and recorded some of the classic electric blues, rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll records for labels such as Sam Phillips's Sun Records. Sun recorded Howlin' Wolf (before he moved to Chicago), Willie Nix, Ike Turner, B.B.King and others.Electric Memphis blues featured "explosive, distorted electric guitar work, thunderous drumming, and fierce, declamatory vocals." Musicians associated with Sun Records included Joe Hill Louis, Willie Johnson and Pat Hare.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
Chester Arthur Burnett, known as Howlin' Wolf, was a Chicago blues singer, guitarist, and harmonica player, originally from Mississippi. With a booming voice and imposing physical presence, he is one of the best-known Chicago blues artists. The musician and critic Cub Koda noted, "no one could match Howlin' Wolf for the singular ability to rock the house down to the foundation while simultaneously scaring its patrons out of its wits." Producer Sam Phillips recalled, "When I heard Howlin' Wolf, I said, 'This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies.'" Several of his songs, including "Smokestack Lightnin'", "Killing Floor" and "Spoonful", have become blues and blues rock standards. In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 54 on its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time".
Willie Nix was an American Chicago blues singer and drummer, active in Memphis, Tennessee, in the 1940s and 1950s.
Jackie Brenston was an American R&B singer and saxophonist, who recorded, with Ike Turner's band, the first version of the pioneering rock-and-roll song "Rocket 88".
James Henry Cotton was an American blues harmonica player, singer and songwriter, who performed and recorded with many of the great blues artists of his time and with his own band. He played drums early in his career but is famous for his harmonica playing.
Little Buddy Doyle was an American Memphis blues and country blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. He was a working associate of the harmonica players Big Walter Horton and Hammie Nixon, the guitarist David "Honeyboy" Edwards, and the pianist Sunnyland Slim.
Izear Luster "Ike" Turner Jr. was an American musician, bandleader, songwriter, arranger, talent scout, and record producer. An early pioneer of fifties rock and roll, he is most popularly known for his work in the 1960s and 1970s with his then-wife Tina Turner in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue.
A jug band is a band employing a jug player and a mix of conventional and homemade instruments. These homemade instruments are ordinary objects adapted to or modified for making sound, like the washtub bass, washboard, spoons, bones, stovepipe, jew's harp, and comb and tissue paper (kazoo). The term jug band is loosely used in referring to ensembles that also incorporate homemade instruments but that are more accurately called skiffle bands, spasm bands, or juke bands because they do not include a jug player.
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 or blues harp 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.
Walter E. "Furry" Lewis was an American country blues guitarist and songwriter from Memphis, Tennessee. He was one of the first of the blues musicians active in the 1920s to be brought out of retirement and given new opportunities to record during the folk blues revival of the 1960s.
Willie Johnson was an American electric blues guitarist. He is best known as the principal guitarist in Howlin' Wolf's band from 1948–53. His raucous, distorted guitar playing features on Howlin' Wolf's Memphis recordings of 1951–3, including the hit song "How Many More Years".
Elmore D is a Belgian blues musician. His is a professor at the University of Liège, where he lectures on the history and culture of Wallonia.
Moanin' in the Moonlight was the debut album by American blues singer Howlin' Wolf. The album was a compilation of previously issued singles by Chess Records. It was originally released by Chess Records as a mono-format LP record in 1959. The album has been reissued several times, including a vinyl reissue in 1969, with the playing order changed, titled Evil.
Rosco N. Gordon III was an American blues singer and songwriter. He is best known for his hit songs "Booted" and "No More Doggin'" (1952) and "Just a Little Bit" (1960).
The Blues Hall of Fame is a music museum located in Memphis, Tennessee. Initially, the "Blues Hall of Fame" was not a physical building, but a listing of people who have significantly contributed to blues music. Started in 1980 by the Blues Foundation, it honors those who have performed, recorded, or documented blues. The actual building for the hall opened to the public on May 8, 2015.
"Little Red Rooster" is a blues standard credited to arranger and songwriter Willie Dixon. The song was first recorded in 1961 by American blues musician Howlin' Wolf in the Chicago blues style. His vocal and slide guitar playing are key elements of the song. It is rooted in the Delta blues tradition and the theme is derived from folklore. Musical antecedents to "Little Red Rooster" appear in earlier songs by blues artists Charlie Patton and Memphis Minnie.
Joe Hill Louis, born Lester Hill, was an American singer, guitarist, harmonica player and one-man band. He was one of a small number of one-man blues bands to have recorded commercially in the 1950s. He was also a session musician for Sun Records.
KWEM Radio was set up by the KLXR-Razorback Network in 1946, in West Memphis, Arkansas. Efforts were made to get the radio station on air before the end of 1946, but equipment problems delayed the opening. Tests were made during the second week of January 1947, and the station's formal opening was held on February 23, 1947.
Joe Willie Wilkins was an American Memphis blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. He influenced his contemporaries Houston Stackhouse, Robert Nighthawk, David Honeyboy Edwards, and Jimmy Rogers, but he had a greater impact on up-and-coming guitarists, including Little Milton, B.B. King, and Albert King. Wilkins's songs include "Hard Headed Woman" and "It's Too Bad."
His Best is a greatest hits album by American blues musician Howlin' Wolf. The album was originally released on April 8, 1997 by MCA/Chess Records, and was one of a series of releases by MCA for the 50th anniversary of Chess Records that year. Ten years later – on April 17, 2007 – the album was reissued by Geffen Records as The Definitive Collection.
"How Many More Years" is a blues song written and originally recorded by Howlin' Wolf in July 1951. Recorded at the Memphis Recording Service – which later became the Sun Studio – it was released by Chess Records and reached no.4 on the Billboard R&B chart. Musician and record producer T-Bone Burnett has described "How Many More Years" as "in some ways... the first rock’n’roll song...". It was a double-sided hit with "Moanin' at Midnight", which reached no.10 on the R&B chart.
The Memphis Music Hall of Fame, located in Memphis, Tennessee, honors Memphis musicians for their lifetime achievements in music. The induction ceremony and concert is held each year in Memphis. Since its establishment in 2012, the Hall of Fame has inducted more than 48 individuals or groups. It is administered by the non-profit Memphis Rock N' Soul Museum. In July 2015, the Memphis Music Hall of Fame opened a 'brick and mortar' museum and exhibit hall, which features memorabilia, video interviews, and interactive exhibits.
His first venture, the Phillips label, issued only one known release, and it was one of the loudest, most overdriven, and distorted guitar stomps ever recorded, 'Boogie in the Park' by Memphis one-man-band Joe Hill Louis, who cranked his guitar while sitting and banging at a rudimentary drum kit.