She began performing in minstrel and vaudeville shows around the age of 14, and is widely considered to be one of the first female singers to perform blues in that setting. She was an important link between the rough vocals of country blues, then a male-dominated genre which her vocal delivery resembled, and the more polished sound of classic urban blues, a female-dominated genre which she ultimately influenced.
In Rainey married William known as Pa Rainey, and the two of them performed together calling themselves "Assasinators of the Blues. In addition to Rainey's vocal prowess, she was also a talented songwriter. After more than two decades of performing, Rainey began to record in , and she left behind a prolific legacy that includes many classics.
Essential listening: "C. Her considerable skill made an impression on Boston's blues scene, and she quickly won the respect of her peers, later playing with blues legends Howlin' Wolf, Son House, Muddy Waters, and others. Like her female predecessors, her music often features a gender-specific spin on the blues; her original interpretation of Chris Smither's "Love Me Like a Man" contains a clever response to Muddy Waters's "Rock Me," and her rendition of Sippie Wallace's "Women Be Wise" likewise offers a refreshing female perspective.
In the eighties Raitt's career slowed somewhat until the release of the aptly-titled Nick of Time in , at which point, in the words of blues historian Robert Santelli, she "pulled off one of the greatest career turnarounds in modern pop history. She continues to record and tour. The Big Book of Blues.
New York: Penguin Books, Reed and his guitarist Eddie Taylor were childhood friends in Mississippi, and they later settled in Chicago, where they would became a unique recording presence.
Some of Reed's success was also due to his wife Mary Lee's considerable talent as a songwriter. Reed's recordings were hugely popular with both blues and pop audiences; he enjoyed a long series of hits from through Many of his songs have been covered by blues, rock and roll and pop artists, including the Rolling Stones, who along with Bob Dylan acknowledge him as a huge influence. Even the king of rock and roll, Elvis Presley, couldn't resist recording a Jimmy Reed song.
The band took their name from a Muddy Waters song, a testament to the fact that they were avid fans of classic blues. As a young man, outrageously charismatic front man and songwriter Mick Jagger was a regular mail-order customer of the Chicago blues label Chess Records the band would later record there and work for years with the co-founder's son Marshall.
Guitarists Brian Jones and Keith Richards who formed a notoriously brilliant songwriting partnership with Jagger were both heavily influenced by Delta blues; Jones idolized legendary blues slide guitarist Elmore James and Richards's highly influential playing made considerable use of the genre's open chord tunings.
Jones left the band just before his death and was replaced by Mick Taylor, a veteran of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Wyman left the group in , and was replaced in by Daryl Jones. The Rolling Stones, who continue to tour, are commonly regarded as one of the most influential bands in the history of music. He has received several nominations for the prestigious W. Read an archived version of Bobby Rush's Washington Post online chat.
Rush was inspired to become a bluesman after he moved to Chicago in the late forties and saw Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf perform. Along with Buddy Guy and Magic Slim, Rush developed a playing style that would become known as the "West Side sound," an emotionally intense combination of guitar licks and expressive vocals, with an urban sound that signified a departure from classic Mississippi Delta blues.
A songwriter in his own right, Rush's frequent use of minor keys provides his music with a subtle but unmistakably anguished tone and interesting moodiness. He is a left-handed guitarist, and like Albert King, one of his primary influences, he plays the guitar upside down rather than having it restrung. Rush continues to tour. She was enormously successful throughout the twenties as a blues and sometimes jazz singer, and beyond that she was an inspiration to the black community, as she lived her life with confidence and uncompromising self-respect, on no one's terms but her own.
This self-assurance was part of the appeal of her rich, expressive vocals. Smith sometimes wrote her own material, such as "Back Water Blues. She was probably on the verge of a comeback, reportedly having been scheduled to play Carnegie Hall at John Hammond's legendary concert "From Spirituals to Swing," when she was killed in a car accident in This success inspired the release of further blues recordings by female artists.
So, although Mamie Smith technically wasn't a blues singer, she was a groundbreaking and influential artist for the genre. Her majestic stage presence and ornate costumes and jewelry also influenced other female blues singers of the twenties.
She was a clever songwriter who unflinchingly addressed diverse topics, and as a vocalist her delivery of the blues was sincere and convincing. Spivey started out as a performer in Houston, and is rumored to have played with Blind Lemon Jefferson.
For a time she worked as a songwriter for the St. Louis Music Company, and later was based in New York, where she performed constantly.
Spivey took a hiatus from music during the fifties, but managed a comeback in the early sixties, starting her own record company just in time for the mid-sixties blues revival to breathe new life into her career as a performer. She released predominantly classic blues on her record label, and continued to tour until her death in Koko Taylor Born: September 28, , Memphis, Tennessee Also known as: Cora Walton Koko Taylor is a living testament to blues history and can still belt out a song as powerfully and joyfully as ever.
A warm, charismatic performer, she has been the undisputed Queen of Chicago Blues for decades, and her reign is still going strong. Taylor's career began after she and her husband moved from Memphis to Chicago, where they frequented the local blues clubs. Once she began sitting in with bands it quickly became obvious she could hold her own not only among female vocalists, but with any of the male heavy hitters, such as contemporaries Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters.
Among her fans was blues great Willie Dixon, who was instrumental in the advancement of her career. Her recording of his original song "Wang Dang Doodle" climbed the rhythm and blues charts, was a million-plus seller, and remains one of her classics. For almost 20 years running she garnered the pretigious W. Handy Award. In the late s Taylor overcame health challenges and adversity to maintain her reputation as a performer and recording artist of passionate, soulful blues.
Terry began his career playing on the streets of Raleigh Durham, North Carolina, where he met local blues guitarist and vocalist Blind Boy Fuller. The two began performing and recording as a duo. The musical partnership of Terry and McGhee would last three decades. They were a versatile and enormously popular duo who always maintained their signature style, Piedmont blues, which was specific to the southeast United States.
As a team they recorded prolifically and kept a busy touring schedule. The partnership ended in the mid-seventies and Terry continued to record and perform on his own. Tharpe was a riveting performer with a flair for showmanship and a definite blues influence in her phrasing and musicianship.
She signed a recording contract with Decca while still a teenager and her recordings were huge hits. Tharpe's talent and appeal were so outrageous and contagious that it was inevitable her talents would one day extend beyond the gospel community. Eventually Tharpe caused great controversy in the gospel community and lost much of her loyal audience when she recorded pure blues in the early s along with gospel artist Madame Marie Knight. It took about a decade before Tharpe made her way back to acceptance from the gospel community.
She continued to tour until her death in Three years later the song was immortalized by Elvis Presley. Thornton began her professional singing career at the age of 14, touring the South with the Hot Harlem Revue. She later moved to Houston, Texas where she did some recording and worked with Johnny Otis and Junior Parker, among others. In the early sixties she settled in San Francisco, playing in local blues clubs as well as touring with blues festivals.
Thornton continued to perform until her death in Among her recordings is "Ball 'n Chain," recorded in , which Janis Joplin covered three years later. Ali Farka Toure Born: , Gourmararusse, Mali Ali Farka Toure is a multi-lingual West African vocalist, guitarist, drummer, and songwriter who, as music historian Richie Unterberger observed, has been "described as 'the African John Lee Hooker' so many times that it probably began to grate on both Toure's and Hooker's nerves. His exceptional music is often described as uniting the sounds of the Mississippi Delta with those of West Africa, and he clearly adds more global influences, musically and instrumentally, to the mix.
Toure has had an enormous influence on world music, and has worked with Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal and the Chieftains, among others.
Turner earned the nickname "Boss of the Blues" because of his powerhouse vocals and formidable stage presence. A Kansas City native, Turner started out playing in local nightclubs, mostly with pianist Pete Johnson, and sometimes with big bands, including that of Count Basie.
Turner and Johnson became one of many acts noticed by legendary talent scout John Hammond. At Hammond's suggestion they moved to New York and were part of his "Spirituals to Swing" concert in Turner began to record and tour in the early forties, working with Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, and others.
Turner continued to perform and record until his death in As a pianist and guitarist he backed visiting bluesmen and performed with his own band, the Kings of Rhythm, while still in high school. He worked as a talent scout in Memphis and throughout the south, and as such he accelerated the careers of Howlin' Wolf, Little Milton and others; as a session musician he often backed up the talent he discovered. Louis, and in the late fifties Turner added vocalist Annie Mae Bullock to the mix who later changed her name to Tina Turner and married Ike.
Tina left the band and the marriage in ; subsequently Ike experienced some hard times, and his career faded. He later made a comeback, and continues to record and perform.
Fife and drum music is a traditional genre that has its roots in the northern Mississippi hill country and is based on African-American work songs and spirituals. The fife is an instrument similar to the flute, often made out of bamboo. The band eventually made it to Chicago, where for years they opened the city's legendary Blues Festival. While in his nineties, Turner preserved his historically significant music with the recordings Everybody's Hollerin' Goat and Senegal to Senatobia.
He was assisted in this feat by contemporaries Albert Collins and Robert Cray. Vaughan was a stunning guitarist who mesmerized crowds and listeners with a signature sound and breathtaking skill, combining the influences of both Texas and Chicago blues.
His guitar gymnastics echoed those of Jimi Hendrix, and that combined with his soulful, original style made his music irresistible to rock fans as well as blues aficionados.
The Texas native dropped out of high school and made his way to Austin to play music; he formed a band that soon became well-known in the city. Eventually he and his band were signed to Epic and their first release, Texas Flood , made blues history. He had taken his rightful place alongside other blues legends when his life and career were cut short by tragedy. Vaughan died in a helicopter crash after a performance with Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton. Vinson got his nickname, "Cleanhead," after an episode with a lye-based hair straightener left him bald.
He was raised in a musical family and played saxophone in high school. Vinson's career from the mid-thirties through the mid-forties included stints in legendary bands, including Chester Boone's band in Houston, which at the time included genius blues guitarist T-Bone Walker; Milt Larkin's band, which boasted a superb saxophone section; and, after Vinson relocated to New York in , the Cootie Williams Orchestra.
Williams's recordings of "Somebody's Got to Go," and "Cherry Red", on which Vinson also appeared as a vocalist, were huge hits. In Vinson formed his own band, which reportedly for a time included John Coltrane. Vinson played at the Monterey Jazz Festival in For the next two decades he toured and recorded in the U. Walker was born into a musical family, and Texas blues legend Blind Lemon Jefferson was a family friend. As a boy Walker reportedly acted as escort to Jefferson when the blind musician played on the streets of Dallas, and was definitely influenced by Jefferson musically.
Walker began his career in Texas and later moved to Los Angeles. Walker's absolute authority with the instrument translated into precise, incendiary musicianship complemented by a confident, masterful stage presence. His ability as a vocalist was every bit as impressive, and he is the author of many blues classics, including "Stormy Monday," which has been covered endlessly and would probably appear in any top 10 list of the best blues ever written.
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