Blues is a vocal and instrumental musical form originally derived from African American work songs. A form of American roots music, blues has been a major influence on later American popular music, finding expression in ragtime, jazz, big bands, rhythm and blues, rock and roll and country music as well as conventional pop songs and even modern classical music.
Early forms of the blues evolved in the Southern United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, using simple instruments such as acoustic guitar, piano, and harmonica. Songs came with many different forms of structure, although the twelve or eight bar structure based on tonic, subdominant and dominant chords became predominant. Melodically, blues music is marked by the use of the lowered third and dominant seventh (so called blue notes) of the associated major scale. The blues scale is frequently used in non-blues musical forms.
What is now recognizable as the standard 12 bar blues form with A A1 B form is documented from oral history and sheet music as appearing in African-American communities throughout the region along the lower Mississippi River during the decade of 1900s (and performed by white bands in New Orleans at least since 1908). One of these early sites of blues evolution was along Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee.
W.C. Handy was one of the first trained musicians to take blues tunes and styles and present them in modern style with bands and singers. He also wrote some of the most important blues, notably the "St. Louis Blues".
Lyrically, verses of early blues songs tended to consist of a single line repeated two or three times before, such as:
The subject matter of the lyrics was often the hardships and injustices of life, giving the blues an undeserved reputation for misery, whereas blues lyrics are often joyous, raunchy and funny.
- Woke up this morning with the blues down in my soul
- Woke up this morning with the blues down in my soul
- My baby gone and left me, got a heart as black as coal
Blues music frequently takes the form of a loose narrative, often with the singer reciting his or her many misfortunes. Contrary to much of the music being recorded at the time, many of the oldest blues records contain gritty, realistic lyrics. For example, Down In The Alley by Memphis Minnie is about prostitution; the singer describes having sex with several men in succession in an alley. Since blues music was, for most of its early history, an entirely African-American form, these narratives often describe such topics as poverty and sexuality from a distinctly black point-of-view. Blues music later achieved more popularity, and the subject matter was able to lighten up somewhat, but early blues music is rarely optimistic and usually downright dark and depressing.
- Rebecca, Rebecca, get your big legs off of me,
- Rebecca, Rebecca, get your big legs off of me,
- It may be sending you baby, but it's worrying the hell out of me.
Jazz bands often recorded blues tunes from 1917 on.
In the 1920s the blues became a major element of American popular music. With the rise of the recording industry there was increased popularity of country blues singers and guitarists like Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Blake who recorded for Paramount Records and Lonnie Johnson who recorded for OKeh Records. Son House, Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Mississippi John Hurt are a handful of musicians that greatly influenced the blues and many later "rock" artists. These recordings came to be known as "race" records since they were targeted almost exclusively to an African American audience. In addition, women blues singers were extremely popular in the 1920s, among them Mamie Smith, Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Victoria Spivey.
In the 1940s and 1950s, increased urbanization and the use of amplification led to electric blues music, popular in cities such as Chicago and best exemplified by such artists as Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters. Electric blues would eventually give rise to rock and roll.
In the 1960s and 1970s artists such as Eric Clapton, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix influenced by both early and electric blues musicians brought the blues to a new, younger audience. This was a development of the earlier folk & blues revival;. Through these artists and others both earlier and later, Blues music has been strongly influential in the development of Rock and Roll.
In the 1980s the film The Blues Brothers helped increase awareness of mid-20th century style urban blues among a younger audience.
Since then blues has continued to thrive in both traditional and new forms through the work of Robert Cray, Bonnie Raitt and others.
Performers in the blues style appear virtually in almost every musical genre. See List of blues musicians for more information.
See also: List of genres of the blues
Blues is also the name for an informal type of swing dancing with no fixed patterns and a heavy focus on connection, sensuality and improvisation, often with body contact. Although usually done to blues music, it can be done to any slow tempoed 4/4 music, including rock ballads and "club" music.
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Cascade Blues Association
(Northwestern US) Site contains information on festival, Northwest Blues legends, membership, and bulletin board.
Baltimore Blues Society
(Baltimore, MD) Non-profit organization. Website offers local venues, shows, resources, blues news.
Boston Blues Society
Non-profit organization. The website has a list of upcoming blues events, sound clips of area bands and a blues discussion group.
Manitoba Blues Society
(Canada) Venues, local bands and artists [PDF], newsletters, audio clips, and links.
Billtown Blues Association
(Northcentral PA) Non-profit organization. website provides information on blues challenge, festival, photo gallery.
Blues Society of the Lower Cape Fear
(Wilmington, NC) Non-profit organization. Website offers links, jam information, blues challenge, festival, special events information.
Magic City Blues Society
(Alabama) Non-profit organization website that features a calendar, events, hotline, local bands, articles, reviews, library.
(Omaha and Lincoln, NE) Website provides local blues news and featured articles. Also home of the Omaha Blues Society calendar of events.
Colorado Blues Society
Non-profit organization website that provides classifieds, calendar, venues, newsletter article submission, photo gallery, radio, membership.
Tucson Blues Society
(Arizona) Blues festival, events, membership, bands and artists, radio listing, reviews, links.
Connecticut Blues Society
Non-profit organization website that provides a newsletter, radio programming, blues bands, talent search and information on society t-shirts and bumper stickers.
Bucks County Blues Society
(Pennsylvania) Site offers photo gallery, top 10, membership, links, coming events.
West Michigan Blues Society
Non-profit organization website that features local events, upcoming specials, special programs, gig and CD reviews, local artist and venue information.
Apalachee Blues Society
(Tallahassee, FL) Site features local venues, gallery, links, news, trivia and membership information.
Capital Area Blues Society
(Michigan) Non-profit organization. Website features various columns, special features, new releases, calendar, links, membership information.
Lehigh Valley's Blues Network
(Allentown, PA) Non-profit organization website features local events, jams, bands/clubs, national acts, membership info.
Detroit Blues Society
(Michigan) Non-profit organization website that provides local events information, CD reviews, band list, the Son House Project, and membership information.
(Finland) Blues festival information and line-up history.
The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society
(Marietta OH) Mid-Ohio Valley site offers information on festival, competition, events and artists.
Kentuckiana Blues Society
Non-profit organization. Website features society and membership information, events, local venues, bands, and CDs, merchandise, reviews, blues news and history, recommended readings and discography, and links.
Phoenix Blues Society
(Arizona) Non-profit organization website that features information on Blues Blast festival, events, clubs, membership, merchandise, and links.
DC Blues Society
(Washington, DC) Non-profit organization website that provides news, events, venues in Washington, Maryland, and Virginia, radio, local bands, membership, merchandise, articles, and links.
Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association
(Michigan) Not for profit organization website that features an annual blues festival, competition, calendar, and links.
New Zealand Blues Society
News from around the world, interviews and articles, plus profiles of New Zealand blues artists.
Linn County Blues Society
(Eastern Iowa) Non-profit organization website that features festival information, local clubs, events, news, specials, membership, links.
Washington Blues Society
(Seattle, Washington) Events, clubs, radio schedule, photographs, CD reviews, newsletter, and links.
Stichting Rhythm & Blues Breda
(Netherland) Festival information, local acts.
Skylands Blues Society
(New Jersey / Pennsylvania) Inactive blues society website offers events calendar, links, jam and events photos, talent contest.
Blues Society of Western NY
Non-profit organization. Website includes listings of member bands, member clubs and an event calendar.
Long Island Blues Society
(New York) Blues fest and membership information.
Columbus Blues Alliance
(Ohio) Local news, events, jams, clubs, archives and festivals.
Manhattan Blues Alliance
Profile of 'Fast' Fred Jackson, the founder.
San Antonio Blues Society
(Texas) Non-profit organization website that features blues related articles, local blues artists, blues news, club and gig information, events, in memoriam, memberships, merchandise, reviews.
Suncoast Blues Society
(Tampa Bay, FL) Website features a blues fund, festival information, reviews, discussion, membership.
Hornby Island Blues Society
(Canada) Website features coming events, workshop information, photo gallery, sound schedule and links.
Blues Music Association, The
Not-for-Profit trade association for blues music industry. Site offers news, links, advice by pros, demographics, member information.
The Northeast Blues Society
(Albany, NY) Not for profit organization website features event calendar, photo album, band page, message board.
(Bloomington, IL) Non-profit organization. Website contains a forum, meetings, events, and artist information.
Louisiana Blues Preservation Society
(Lafayette, LA) Non-profit organization website that contains membership information, Louisiana Blues Challenge, and links.
Tulsa Blues Club
(Oklahoma) Blues fest photographs, sampling party, and links.
The Launceston Blues Club
Blues club in Tasmania, Australia.
Atlanta Blues Society
(Atlanta, GA) Atlanta Blues Society Days, radio blues, blues hotlist, memberships.
Blues Bank Collective
(New England) Information on blues festivals, education, multicultural studies, links, recordings.
Sir Charles Blues Lab
A non-profit organization website providing young people with musical instruments and cultural experiences in the tradition of American blues music
The Bottleneck Blues Club
(Kent & SE England) News, gig guide, acts, maps, festival information.
Edinburgh Blues Collective
(Edinburgh, Scotland) Offers blues collective acts, Scottish Blues Links, other blues links.
Ottawa Blues Society
(Canada) This site includes news, reviews, sounds and links.
San Luis Obispo Blues Society
(California) Non-profit organization website includes dance-concert announcements, artist bios, cd reviews, links to local performers and other related information.
Houston Blues Society, The
(Texas) Site offers information on local artists, venues, news, directory, discussion, membership and links.
The Real Knoxville Blues Society
(Tennessee) Festival information, local venues and clubs, history, calendar, links.
Fox Valley Blues Society
(Oswego, Illinois) Features blues history, festival information, news, links, blues in schools.
Sonoma County Blues Society
(California) Website features a calendar, festival, jam , membership information, gallery, and links.
Lizard Creek Blues Society
(Fort Dodge, IA) Non-profit organization website that features announcement of local events, newsletter excerpts, contacts, membership, Iowa blues links.
European Blues Association
(UK) Features news, events and African American music archive.
Saskatoon Blues Society
(Canada)Website offers upcoming events, membership information, blues news and links.
Dorset Blues Society
(Dorchester, UK) Website features a gig guide, sound bytes, club news, humor, links.
Southern California Blues Society
(Southern California) Non-profit oraganization website that features festival dates, line-up and ticket pricing.
A website provides an array internet services for blues fans, musicians and other blues societies.
Mid-Atlantic Blues Society
Online Blues Society for Mid-Atlantic U.S. This site offers discussions, local and national blues acts, blues events, blues radio, blues societies, and contact information.
MO Blues Association Inc.
(Central Missouri) Non-profit organization website that features music links, photo archives, MP3s, Missouri Blues radio guide and membership information.
Boise Blues Society
(Boise, ID) Website offers information on local bands, venues, other blues societies a calendar and links.
Aalborg Blues Forum
(Aalborg , Denmark)Information om bluesrelaterede arrangementer i Aalborg og
Charlotte Blues Society
(Charlotte, NC) Non-profit organization website that provides membership information, upcoming events and Blues in the Schools program.
Mississippi Valley Blues Society
(Davenport, IA) Site features festival information, events calendar, blues education, images, video and blues links.
Blues Lovers United of San Diego
(San Diego, CA) Site offers an online store, newsletter, photos and press information.
Sacramento Blues Society
(Sacramento,CA) Website features local clubs, membership and weekly jam information.
Blues In The Schools
A fundraising non-profit organization which brings blues history and education to the schools. Site features President's message, officers information and a mailing subscriber.
Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation (AEBHF)
(Washington, DC) Website for a museum, music hall and educational facility located in a barbershop. Website offers biographies, events calendar and links.
Greater Cincinnati Blues Society
(Ohio) Non-profit organization website that features a blues festival, local and regional events, membership, merchandise, links, directory of bands, clubs, jams, education, and radio.
Knoxville Blues Society
(Knoxville, TN) Site features blues notes, festival photographs, links and contact information.
Southern Arizona Blues Heritage Foundation
(Southern Arizona) Non-profit organization informational website.
The Spa City Blues Society in Hot Springs, Arkansas
Website features information on the Annual Hot Springs Blues Festival, weekly blues jams, Banjo Dan Memorial fund, and Pamela S.Bright Band Camp Scholarship fund.
Baton Rouge Blues Society
(Louisiana) Non-profit organization. Website contains information concerning local Blues clubs, Blues events, and membership.
New York Blues Society
Not for profit organization website features local gigs, clubs, jams, musician directory, CD reviews and links.
Blues Society of Austin
(Austin, TX) Non-profit organization. Website features band listings, calendar, links, business information.
Scranton/Wilkes Barre Blues Association
Pennsylvania website that features blues and musician resources, Music for Charity, Blues history, gig and event calendars, art, graphics, band resources, articles.
Minnesota Mojo - Home of Minnesota's Statewide Blues Society
(Minnesota) Website of a statewide blues society. Site contains a wide array of contemporary blues information.
The Shasta Blues Society
(Redding,CA) Non-profit organization website that features an events calendar, membership and sponsor information, jam night guidlines and Blues by the River information and image archive.
Central Valley Blues Society
California organization provides its events calendar, links and sites related to local and visiting bands.
Oklahoma Blues Society
Website features CD reviews, the OK Blues Gig Guide, schedules by date, band, venue or city, booking info, sites, maps and links.
River City Blues Society
(Peoria, IL) Website offers events, bands, links and Blues Hotline information.
The Creekside Blues Society
(Gahanna, OH) Website features the society's mission statement and Blues in Schools information.
Santa Barbara Blues Society
Website features a current society newsletter, information concerning membership, upcoming shows, blues radio and a links page.
Mid-Mississippi Muddy Water Blues Society
(Quincy, Illinois) Website provides calendar of society events, membership information, sharing thoughts on the talk board, and information for annual Area Blues Fest.
(Northern Mississippi) The Jessie Mae Hemphill Foundation is a nonprofit website to draw public attention to blues music indigenous to the region. Website features a image gallary and CD sales.
Mason-Dixon Blues Association
(Spring Grove, PA) website offers blues links, weekly blues jam information, message board, blues news, CD and concert reviews.
Natchel' Blues Network
(Norfolk, Virginia) Non-profit organization website features blues events, newsletter, music reviews, photo gallery, archive, local blues bands, venues, blues hotlines.
Central Iowa Blues Society
(Des Moines, IA) Non-profit organization. Website contains local news, calendar, band directory, festival info, Blues challenge, endowment, merchandise, links and scrapbook.
Kansas City Blues Society
Website features information on free concerts, school outreach programs, and special annual events.
Toronto Blues Society
(Canada) Magazine, mailing list, events, membership, merchandise, and links.