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Musical note Musical NoteThe History and Evolution of The Blues and Rockn'n'Roll


This is a stie dedicated to looking at the evolution of Rockn'Roll from it's roots in blues to modern industrial rock and heavy metal. While many individuals had a profound effect on the art form as awhole, there are certain individuals who I believe had a 'turning point' effect on the music, people whose music has meant alot to alot of people and withstood the test of time and whose life had a meaning to people beyond the music. I included those people who had such a history, and whom I had some knowlege of. I plan to eventually make a similar site dedicated to rap as well, but right now I want to concentrate on the history of rock, and a rich history it is.

The Earliest Roots

Rock n' Roll/Blues has it's earliest roots in two or three sources. The first and probably the most important and direct of these is the early music of slaves and sharecroppers in the plantations of the deep south, particularly in Mississipi. It has even been suggested that one town, Cleveland Ms. may be the exact birthplace of the blues itself. The blues got its sound from the solemn songs of old farmhands (mostly african-americans) as they toiled in the cotton fields, put to guitar and harmonica music by such masters as Charley Patton, the first blues star ever (ca. 1922). The next, only slightly less important root, of rock was the evolution of old southern ballads and their being recorded and changed up by slightly more modern performers, giving way to what would eventually be called "bluegrass". This sound was given an excellent close look by the Coen Bros' movie 'O brother Where art Thou", which I suggest any fan of such music go and see. The words of old very old music was sped up, put to guitar and other instruments and the words were changed to more easily "roll" off the toung, combine this with the choppy, "rockin" sounds of the blues and you can see how the music evolved, more on that later. Finaly, the "swing" music of the 20s caused white america to develop an interest in black musical culture, which set up the capacity of the coming "Blues Age" to come into being.

Leadbelly Page The Grandfathers of The Art: Ledbelly & Robert Johnson

Ledbelly Page

Leadbelly's story is one of a truly great musician trying to make it in a world that could not see past the color of his skin. Leadbelly's story, like that of his contemporary johnson, is one shrouded in mystery and myth, full as much of legend as of fact. The story of his criminal past is covered on the LEADBELLY page in this web site, as is a more detailed biography. Right here I want to talk about his influence on music in general, particularly on rock n' roll. While in his life, people watched him like an animal in a zoo, his influence on music can be heard most directly in more modern bands. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Stone Temple pilots have all identified Leadbelly as a source of inspiration, as well as influence. In many ways, his playing in white arenaspaved the way for later greats such as BB King and Muddy Waters. Some of the music he wrote that has been re written include "Gallows Pole" "In the pines" and "Hobo's Lullaby". The Great Kirk Cobain (see: Cobain link) wrote two major tributes to the blues master.

Robert Johnson Page Robert Johnson

Johnson Page

Robert Johnson has become in recent times almost a mythic figure thanks to the movie 'Crossroads' and it is true that the truth behind Johnson's life and death are almost as amazing and shrouded in mystery as the legend of Robert Johnson, and the page I have dedicated to this modern-day herculean mythic hero is extensive as I am not alone in believing him to be the greatest blues guitarist, acoustic guitarist, and folk musician who ever lived. He is also considered by many to be the true father of modern rock n' roll. It was in fact he who finally combined the ancient sounds of those slave songs put to music known as blues and combined it with the modernizing southern ballads known as bluegrass to form a sound that people would imitate to this day. Nearly every one of his 29 recordings have been remade in whole or in part. His influence extended to folk, jazz, blues all the way to modern rap. One can hear his excellent mastery of the blues sound can be heard in songs such as "Come on in my Kitchen" and "Me and The Devil Blues". His understanding of the folk and jazz sounds is evident is songs like "They're Red Hot" and "Love in Vain". Finally he seems to combine these sounds in "Crossroads" a song that has been remade by many, many musicians. Songs such as "Riverside Blues" and "Sweet Home Chicago" are without a doubt the first rock songs ever recorded, and were innovative to say the least, years ahead of their time. With all this timeless music written and performed by the same man, can there be any doubt that Johnson's importance is beyond measure? The legend of him selling his soul to the devil to recieve his extensive skills only added to his fame, fame which persists to this very day.

Waters/BB King Pg. Muddy Waters, BB King and The Golden Age of Blues

Waters & King Page

The 40s were the height of the blues age. Many, many great blues musicians took center stage inspiring the coming age of rock that would soon become the central musical art form in this country. Elvis, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, none would have become famous if not for the great blues musicians first laying down the foundation of music which they would base (and often copy) they're music from. Perhaps no blues man is more reknown for his talent and influence on the coming rock music, however, than the famous Muddy Waters. Hailing, like those who came before him, from Mississipi, he is probably most responsible for making the blues the major musical force it became. He produced countless records and performed all over the country, however, his main contribution to blues was making it a more 'respectable business'. He was renound as a gentleman, respectable and likeable. He also forcefully kept those who worked with him inline, never letting alcoholics or drug addicts to work with him. However, he respected the power of the mythic nature of prople like Robert Johnson, and many of his lyrics talk about mojo, hoodoo, and other african mysticism. He remains to this day one of the most remembered Blues men of all time.

BB King

Another Mississippi native who remains to this day one of the most successful singer/songwriters of all time is the famous BB King. Along with his equally-famous guitar Lucille, he produces music to this day that delights and captivates audiences. He has gone on countless tours and collaberated with some of the greatest musical artists of every generation. His long-time collaberative efforts with Eric Clapton(see Clapton Page) are some of the most memorable musical creations of all time. Recently, the two put out a new album 'Ridin with the King', which I recommend to anyone. He is an unmatched guitar player with a style and energy all his own. He has won many awards, including nine grammies. His music has stood the test of time, he has been an influence on many rock musicians all the way to the present. The fact that at 74 he is producing music at all, much less of the quality that he has, is a testament to the importance of blues music in this country.

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