Rhythm & Blues

Blue Shuffle

 

The Blues was the strong stream of influence that fed improvised jazz and popular music throughout the 20th century. Jazz without the blues was unthinkable. A clear but fraught sequence was traced - African Rhythm, Plantation Songs, Folk Blues, Church Songs, Instrumental Blues, Classic Blues, Country Music, Boogie Woogie & Harlem Pianos, Gospel, Big Band Blues of the Territory Bands, Kansas City Blues of Basie to Chicago Electric Urban Blues ... mixes & matches everywhere this was by evolution not design ...

The blues came out of the country into the urban centres .... something like this ... Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf & Elmore James among others, played what was basically Mississippi Delta blues, backed by bass, drums, piano.

T-Bone Walker in Houston and B B King in Memphis also pioneered a style of guitar playing that combined jazz technique with the blues tonality and repertoire.

Then in the 1960s the urban bluesmen were 'discovered' by young white American and European musicians. Blues bands presented 'the blues' to young white audiences, something the black blues artists in America had failed to do, except perhaps through stolen white cross-over covers of black rhythm and blues songs - The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Cream and Fleetwood Mac ... 

Rhythm & Blues - a genre most commonly referred to as R&B, was comprised of a variety of different but related styles. This title often encompasses developments of the style such as Jump Blues, Club Blues, black Rock 'n' Roll, Doo Wop, Soul, Motown, Funk, Disco, and Rap.

Independent recording companies specialised in R&B music - Atlantic records in New York City, Sun Records in Memphis, Chess Records in Chicago 1947, Stax of Memphis & King Records in Cincinnati.

The big nationwide companies by 1950 were - Decca, Columbia, RCA-Victor, Mercury, Capitol & MGM.

Atlantic RecordsTurkish American Ahmet Ertegun became an ardent fan of Jazz and rhythm & blues and assembled an unbelievable collection of 15,000 78rpm records!

Ertegun founded Atlantic records in 1947 and joined the post war growth in the industry. He was in partnership with a dentist Herb Abramson, who put up some money.
They assembled a superb array of talent including Tiny Grimes and then Willis Conover of VOA recommended Ruth Brown and the hits began. 1949 'So Long' was the first with the Eddie Condon Band.

Atlantic became 'The House that Ruth Built'.

In 1952 Ray Charles was there with 'I got a Woman'.

Atlantic's New York studio was also the first in America to install multitrack recording machines.

In 1953 Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters recorded 'Money Honey'.

Jerry Wexler was recruited from Billboard in June 1953.

Jerry WexlerJerry Wexler (1917-2008) was a Jewish boy from the Bronx who worked for Billboard as a journalist and in 1953 he joined Atlantic Records the pioneers of Soul. The term Rhythm & Blues was originally coined by Wexler in 1949 as a more meaningful description of the old 'race record' music.

At Atlantic he recorded Ruth Brown, the Drifters, Ray Charles, Big Joe Turner, the Allman Brothers, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits, Wilson Pickett, Dusty Springfield, Bob Dylan, LaVern Baker, Chris Connor, Chuck Willis, Solomon Burke, Willie Nelson, Etta James ...

Wexler realized that many R&B recordings by black artists were being covered by white performers, with big chart success ... he cashed in ... in July 1954 Wexler 'got it' and wrote a seminal article,

'The Latest Trend: R&B Disks are Going Pop'

Atlantic did a hugely successful eight year deal with Stax of Memphis giving Stax access to Atlantic's promotions and distribution.

Stax in Memphis developed alongside Motown in Detroit and Atlantic as a R&B powerhouse with Otis Redding in 1962, 'These Arms of Mine'

Throughout the 20th century, R&B has been the largest influence on popular music all over the world. The influence can be seen in forms of rock, country & western, gospel ... and jazz. Despite the fact that there are many styles, there are common musical and social elements that link them.

The musical rhythm is clearly the most important and distinguishing feature and the rhythms of Africa manifested themselves in what the uninitiated called 'beat music' and what the R&B masters called 'the groove' ... messing expertly with the beat ...

All the genres of jazz typically depend upon a four beat measure and a backbeat, the off beat, the accentuation of beats two and four. The early parade bands and Dixieland groups had a two beat, 1 - 2, left - right, march feel. This was the syncopation of ragtime. However, jazz was soon to smooth out the beat to 4/4 and enable expression of more of the innate African rhythmic sophistication. Always with the beat, the bass line, rooting the music in calm, comfortable territory.

The specific approach to the expression of this musical time, 'the groove', is the primary way to differentiate between one genre and another.

The groove of R&B was essentially the shuffle rhythm, a driving danceable, syncopated rhythm with regular infectious repetitions and the introduction of the blue notes, the flattened 7th and 3rd. Boogifying the beat.

(The rhythms of Rock developed more from the 'boom chuck' back beat of Country Music and a straight eighths feel of intensity).

Listen to the rhythms of Muddy Waters ... unmistakable Rhythm & Blues?

Except for rap, the performing ensemble was generally divided into a rhythm section and a horn section.

Rhythm & Blues originated from the massive social, industrial, and technological upheaval that took place in the United States just prior to and during World War II. Hundreds of black Americans began moving northward into cities as high paying wartime employment opportunities became available. New musical styles were created to meet the emerging tastes of this demographic group. Thus, the new urbane sounds of rhythm and blues were developed. In addition, technological changes in music took place. The invention of the electric guitar and the tape recorder were major influences on R&B. The recording process was now simplified and companies were developed solely around distributing R&B music.

Precedents illustrate the reality that this music was being played and heard by hordes of interested folk all over America, there were interconnections everywhere, these guys were never playing in isolation, this was evolution not design and musical species emerged from a primordial soup in exactly the same way as Darwin described. There were common ancestors but separate species were not recognised at the time. It was only with hindsight that we could 'see' a possible development of an identifiable species. And even then folk disagreed on the interpretation of history. There were very few certainties but perhaps the blues were started by blacks in the south of America and then the seeds went everywhere, and music was about messing with rhythm and using scales that were different from the classical European tradition. The rest was inspired guesswork.  

The classic urban blues culminated in the 1939 recordings of Robert Johnson made for Vocalion. Many believe that these represent the transition from early folky Country Blues to City Blues. Johnson was clearly following variations on the twelve bar Blues form.

Then the all encompassing R&B genre followed ...

Big Band Blues - Jimmy Rushing (1901-72) shouted the blues with Count Basie 1935-48.

Joe Turner (1911-85) another blues shouter from Kansas, he replaced Jimmy Rushing in the Basie Band. 'Shake Rattle and Roll' 1954

Jump Blues - small band blues from the big bands. An up-tempo style that featured horns ... was developed by

Louis Jordan (1908-75) who joined the R&B stream from the swing bands ...

Popular Blues - 1938 Slim Gaillard, vocals, and Slam Stewart, bass, always known as 'Slim & Slam', became almost instantly famous with the catchy 'Flat Foot Floozie', recorded by Louis Armstrong and The Mills Brothers.

Ruth Brown (1928-2008) Miss Rhythm the Queen of R&B & pop blues at Atlantic. 'So Long' 1949. 'Teardrops from My Eyes' 1950 ...

Electric Blues - T-Bone Walker (1910-75) 'I got a break baby/Mean old world' 1942,

Guitar Boogie - white The Rambler Trio with Arthur 'Guitar Boogie' Smith (1921-2014), 'Guitar Boogie' 1945 ...  

B B King (1925-) was black and rose to fame in Memphis on the back of the English bluesmen, 'BB's Boogie' 1950 ... 

Club Blues was a more subdued style of R&B which began early with pianists ...

Nat King Cole (1919-65) 'Unforgettable' and Charles Brown (1922-99) gained acclaim.

Muddy WatersMuddy Waters (1913-83) born on the Mississippi was another Alan Lomax discoveries, a bluesman out of Son House & Charley Patton. Raw emotion on the acoustic guitar loud enough to be heard above the excitement of the Saturday night hoe down on the plantation ... dirty, growling and blue.
But Muddy's claim to fame was the electric urban blues of the Chicago night clubs ... where his style was focused on the new electric  effects of volume & distortion and the call & response with the pinky slide ... with vibrato, hammer ons and pull offs ... Muddy played the drums on his guitar!

Brash urban noise, loud drums, electric guitars, tenor sax, heavy relentless beat, riff after riff, black music for blacks, the itinerant singer becomes jukebox fodder, country blues goes electric.

 Muddy Waters made the exodus from the South to Chicago in 1940 ... from cabin stoops to steaming night clubs - danceable blues, borrowing the beat from Gospel and feeling from the blues. Lively excitement after the sobriety of Crosby and Sinatra!

1941 Muddy Waters was still playing delta blues on an acoustic guitar

1943 he moved to Chicago

1944 electric guitar

1947 then started recording for Chess in Chicago

1950 he was playing delta blues on electric, still unaccompanied on some numbers but with harmonica on others

1951 playing electric and with harmonica and double bass

1953 Muddy had arrived at his classic band shape of electric guitar, harmonica (Little Walter), guitar , piano (Otis Span) and drums. And had also arrived at the electric blues sound, with more up-tempo numbers.

T-Bone Walker (1910-75) in Houston was in Houston, Texas and went electric in 19??.

Howlin' Wolf (1910-76) 6ft 3ins with a big voice. His idol was Jimmie Rodgers (1897-1933), thus establishing another link of blues and country. 'How many More Years?' 1951.

Willie Dixon (1915-92)

John Lee HookerJohn Lee Hooker (1917-2001) was born in Mississippi but moved to Beale Street then to the Detroit car factories in 1943 and with his electric boogie blues ...  'Boogie Chillen' 1948 ... he was a big influence on 'The Yardbirds' ...

Elmore James (1918-63) a slide guitar player, rough country blues straight from Robert Johnson, 'Rollin' Stone' ... 'Dust my broom' 1951; 'Baby Please don't Go' 1953 ...

This music was a big influence on the Brits (John Mayall, Eric Clapton, The Stones, Van Morrison, Fleetwood Mac, et al ... but he had little influence on the Beatles.

The Brits in turn aroused interest in the US from both blacks (blues revival) and whites (Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, Electric Flag, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Allman Brothers, et al).

But it was Muddy Waters - led the field from the Blues ... however he was followed by -

rock 'n' roll - Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup 'That's all Right' 1946, ditto Elvis 1954; Wynonie Harris 'Good Rockin' Tonight' 1947; Fats Domino 'The fat man' 1949; Bill Haley & his Saddlemen 'Rock the Joint' 1952; The Treniers 'Rockin' is Our Business' 1952

soul - Ray Charles (1930-2004) 'I got a Woman' 1954; James Brown (1922-99) 'Please Please Please' 1956

Johnny Otis (1921-2012) impresario and 'Godfather' of R&B, 'Ain't nuthin' shakin'' 1949,

Illinois Jacquet (1922–2004) a honking jazz tenor player, with Lionel Hampton & Cab Calloway & Count Basie, best remembered for his solo on 'Flying Home', the first R&B saxophone solo?

B B King (1925-) rose to fame on the back of the English Bluesmen! In Memphis he pioneered a style of guitar playing that combined jazz technique with the blues tonality and repertoire.

Chuck Berry (1926-) was Muddy's protégé, blending white country with black blues, Chuck was raceless?? and the first black rocker, helped by Alan Freed, he developed the rock rhythm ... 'Maybellene' 1955

Bo Diddley (1928-2008) inspired by John Lee Hooker (1917-2001) he developed an insistent, driving rhythm on a hard edged electric guitar ans his African rhythms and simple five accent clave were very influential, a cornerstone of rock and hip hop ...

Fats Domino (1928-) New Orleans piano, he was hard at it in the 40's then came Rock 'n' Roll; 'Hey la bas', 'Blueberry Hill ', 'Ain't that a Shame', 'My Blue Heaven' ...

Little Richard (1932-)

Jimi Hendrix (1942-70) London and Rock.

Early R&B music was largely outside the pop mainstream which was dominated by swing band vocalists, then came Jerry Wexler ...

During the 1950s R&B began catering for the teenage audience, rather than an adult one. Black Rock 'n' Roll developed and forever changed American culture. Many artists began subdividing the basic quarter note into straight eighth notes as opposed to the triplet or shuffle subdivision, the subdivision that was most commonly used in earlier R&B ... and Rock 'n' Roll, Soul and The Beatles and then The Byrds and The Eagles ...

R&B had its own record labels. Originally a black music but by the 1960s R&B had a white audience. However Rockabillies were taking over everything ... and Elvis had RCA behind him ... what chance had Ray Charles and B B King?

During the 1950s Rhythm & Blues merged with gospel and the Blues to produce Soul ... and Atlantic Records in New Yok, New York.

The 1960s were marked by developments of the main R&B style. Many cities had there own styles of pop Soul with each style having its own key features and musicians who made it popular. But the main sub genres which emerged were -

1. Southern soul - the original driving energetic Gospel style of Ray Charles, James Brown and Sam Cooke. Memphis.

2. Doo-Wop - R&B vocal group harmony. New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore, Newark, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, Washington and Los Angeles in the 1940s ...

3. The Motown Sound - R&B black sounds for white dancing. Detroit.

4. Funk - Stax Records swallowed by Atlantic in 1967. Memphis.

5. Reggae - resuscitated Caribbean to North America rhythm flow.

ad for Money HoneyDoo Wop.

1960s - The definition of Doo Wop first appeared in 1961 as a means of distinguishing the fragmentation and R&B. The main R&B sub genres were Rock 'n' Roll and southern Soul but there were several other identifiable sub genres in the mix. Doo Wop caught on as a description of the vocal harmony style and it expanded backward to include R&B groups from the 1950s The Ravens, 'Write me a letter' 1947, The Drifters, 'Money Honey' 1953, The Penguins, 'Earth Angel' 1954, and above all The Platters, 'Only You' 1955, 'The Great Pretender', 'Smoke gets in Your Eyes' and further back the 1940s Ink Spots, Mills Brothers ...

... and even back to 1930s revival of the Barbershop Quartets of the 19th century under the organising influence of The Barbershop Harmony Society of Wisconsin and later of Nashville, Tennessee.

Barbershop music was often characterised by four white dandies with moustaches, straw hats & striped vests as they performed their stuff at the social gatherings in the barber shops ... the barber shops were 'social spaces' rather like the old taverns. The music stereotyped as 'white' was of Afro-American heritage ... at the turn of the century Buddy Bolden owned a barber shop and Jelly Roll, W C Handy, Louis and The Mills Brothers were all involved in the genre. Maybe three characteristics nail the style as Afro-American -

1. call-and-response patterns, the most fundamental of the social participations

2. rhythmic character, the relentless groove; regular pulse for dancing, echo and fills as rhythmic propellants and the ebb & flow of rhythmic swing and

3. the functional harmonies with the incorrigible 'blue notes' ...

Barbershop QuartetTypically a lead voice sang the melody, a tenor harmonised above, baritone below and the bass completed the 'bass line' of a 4 part ringing chord. When 'a cappella' the Babershoppers coaxed out that 4th overtone, when they were all in 'just' tuning and 'in the groove'!

Was this Doo Wop? The emphasis was clearly on harmony ... but definitely rhythmic harmony ... and another interesting example of the mix & match of African rhythm and natural if not European harmony! Melody led Barbershop homophony was getting close to the idea behind the polyphony of traditional jazz. Jazz tutors often stressed the importance of pushing other members of the band into 'sounding good' as if coaxing the harmonies to 'ring' ...

The falsetto voice Clyde McPhatter (1932-) of The Drifters and Atlantic Records and Doo Wop all came out of Jerry Wexler and R&B ... unintentionally stressing the evolutionary nature of the speciation of the popular music genres from the original fountain head of Afro American rhythms.

The Doo Woppers were stealing from the past ... Jerry Wexler was at Atlantic. He took the street corner Doo Woppers and rehearsed them to order.

MotownMotown

1960s - Motown was big and black and a 1960s record label in Detroit run by Berry Gordy that helped to turn R&B popular with Diana Ross & the Supremes, the Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Jackson Five and the Marvelettes, 'Please Mr Postman' 1961 ...

Motown was out of soul music and popular with the whites for dancing. The black middle class, the product of the great migration of southerners to the job in the car factories in Detroit.

'The Motown Sound' had simple pop appeal with tambourines on the back beat and strong melodic bass lines on the electric bass. Often with a distinctive call-and-response singing style from gospel music.

Diana Ross (1944-) & The Supremes - 1962 White R&B sung and organised by blacks for dancing, tambourines on the drum beat, 'Baby Love' 1964.

Diana Ross was one of the first Motown artists to embrace the Disco sound with her hit 'Love Hangover' 1976. Ross would continue to score Disco hits for the rest of the disco era, including the 1980 dance classics 'Upside Down' and 'I'm Coming Out'.

Recorded a duet with Marvin Gaye 1973 ...

1970s -

Marvin Gaye (1939-84) murdered by his dad in 1984. Learnt his singing in the church.

Stevie Wonder (1950-) a blind child prodigy, with Motown from age 11. 'A Tribute to Uncle Ray' 1962.

... Motown led to Disco.

Funk.

1970s - During the late 1960s, the changes in black culture were reflected in R&B music and the development of Funk. Funk lost melody & harmony and emphasised rhythm ... and dancing to the groove.

... Funk led to Rap.

Disco.

1970s - Disco also developed during the early 1970s and rivaled Funk in popularity.

... Disco led to Rap.

Bob MarleyReggae ...

1970s - Caribbean Music a genre which encompasses a diverse variety of musical styles and traditions from islands that are located in the Caribbean Sea. The styles range anywhere from traditional folk genres such as the Puerto Rican aguinaldo and Jamaican mento to more contemporary music such as salsa and reggae.

In many aspects, it is more common to see a marked diversity than a marked unity in Caribbean music. A few generalizations can be made, however. Most music of this region combines features of music from Africa with features of music from the West. This combination began with the European colonization and slave trade but still continues into the present.

The history of Caribbean music begins with the Native Americans, the first inhabitants of the islands. Traditional tribal music which featured percussion instruments developed but perished along with most of the Native Americans in the 1600s. Subsequent Caribbean music emerged as a result of new relationships between African slaves and European settlers. The settler communities, as opposed to the plantation towns, attracted large numbers of very different people and harboured a very lively music culture.

The next key development came in the twentieth century with the advent of mass media, particularly phonograph records and radio broadcasts. NBC went coast to coast in 1928. This stimulated the creation of popular dance styles. During the mid-twentieth century, the immigration of Cubans to large cities played a major role in spreading the music of the region. New York City, in particular, emerged as a large centre for Latin and West Indian popular music.

Distinctive Styles - most Caribbean styles may be grouped into the categories of folk, classical, or commercially popular music. Folk styles were derived primarily from African music and tend to be dominated by percussion instruments as well as call and response vocals. Included in this category are the traditional Cuban rumba, the Puerto Rican bomba as well as music associated with Afro-Caribbean religions (such as Haitian, voodoo, and Cuban Santeria). A few styles, however, reflect a more European influence. The Puerto Rican jiharo music and Cuban punto are two examples.

Local forms of classical music were created in the nineteenth century in Cuba and Puerto Rico as formally trained composers began to infiltrate the area. The most prominent styles in this category are the Cuban contradaza and the habon (a lighter and more rhythmic but also Cuban style).

The best known forms of Caribbean music are the modern, popular genres. They are mostly from Cuba and include the con (the most popular style of Cuban dance music). The chadracha, the listera (a romantic, languid style), and the mambo (an instrumental big band style). Since the mid-1960s, styles like salsa and merengue have become widely popular. The most internationally famous style of Cuban music has clearly been reggae. This style emerged in the late 1960s in Jamaica as a reinterpretation of American R&B music. 

Bob Marley (1945-81) and The Wailers ... a singer who helped push the Reggae style into the international arena.

Reggae incorporated some of the musical elements of R&B, jazz & calypso and continued the ancient flow of Caribbean rhythms into North American pop. Full of offbeat rhythms of a dominant heavy guitar. Tempos were often slow and rocksteady. The ubiquitous 'call and response' was there. And a general tendency to focus on beat 3 ... ?

'Exodus' 1977 was the culmination of success.

Latin America contained a very rich variety of cultural and musical heritages. Certain types of Latin American music represented fairly direct lines to the original cultural sources ... some ballad and dance traditions were traced directly back to Europe. However, the most prevalent musical styles in much of Latin America were the result of various types and degrees of fusion of many different cultural heritages and musical resources.

Latin American Music ... Salsa ... many played a Ska-Jazz mix. Ska was also derived from Jazz and Carribean Island music. Some good ska and/or jazz bands include, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and the Cherry-Poppin Daddies. A great jazz singer/pianist was Harry Connick, Jr.

rap ...

1980s - Rap was the most significant development in popular music during the 1980s & 90s.

Rhythm & Blues and Jazz ... Speciation ... ?

As the big bands declined and prior to the advent of Charlie Parker's 'bebop' and the mainstream of modern Jazz, two streams of popular music had been established -

Rhythm & Blues which inspired an avalanche of new popular guitar music with prominent vocals and went on to 'rock' and mainstream pop ...

small band swing with improvised swinging jazz which looked to tradition of dance to survive and these small instrumental bands and kept the tradition alive ... with a renaissance.  Jazz retained some popularity, there many were 'tribute' bands but others were new young groups, everybody still wanted to play and dance ...

 This stuff was never to die!

American Popular music was one evolving tree of sounds -

Negro Spirituals and field chants with a shout and response style with repetitive syncopated rhythms turned into Blues music - music of the youth of that era

Blues musicians like Thomas A Dorsey took the blues into the Southern Baptist Churches to give us Gospel Music loved all over the world as much as Jazz and Blues and considered by everyone outside the USA as an integral style of Jazz - music of the youth of that era. 

Blues evolved and influenced early ragtime and Minstrelsy, and later hot parade and dance bands, which became Dixieland or Traditional Jazz Bands and the blues still influences many styles of Jazz today - music of the youth of that era

Blues also inspired the development of Country and Western Music and Rock and Roll which both matured into different segments of popular music - the music of the youth of that era
Today we have more fragmentation -

Swing, Bebop and Modern Jazz evolved from the jazz of the 1920s - music of the youth of yet another generation

New Country which was what Country & Western evolved into - music for the youth of this era

Rock 'n' Roll, boogification of songs, singer/songwriters, Folk Rock, Heavy Metal, Reggae, New Wave, Techno pop, rap & Hip Hop. Rock & Roll evolved into Rock, Heavy Metal, Punk Rock, Rap and Hip Hop - music for youth of this era

Then there's the Brits - The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Andrew Lloyd Webber ...

Electric GuitarThe Electric Guitar ...

In 1939 Charlie Christian (1916-42) started experimenting with the amplified electric guitar with Benny Goodman and the guitar and jazz changed.

Charlie Christian was the first person to perform using the amplified guitar as a solo instrument, but many musicians since him, such as Aaron Thibeaux Walker, Les Paul, Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, and Carlos Santana have featured and experimented with the instrument.

The guitar also went north with the bluesmen as the demand for labour took them to Chicago in search of work and into a large black urban population and audiences for the blues in the night clubs ... and the electric guitar became essential fare and Rhythm & Blues was born.

In 1936 Gibson introduced the ES150 model and Charlie Christian took the guitar by storm.
Electric guitars had a profound influence on Jazz, Blues, Bluegrass, Country, Folk, R&B, Rock & Soul ...

Was it Les Paul or Leo Fender who made the very first solid body guitar?

Les Paul (-) played the electric guitar and was a groundbreaking player and visionary. He used a solid body guitar and made a classic recording of 'Lover' in 1948.

 

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