Was Blues Music called Blues Music when it started in the early 1900s?

I guess, it occurred to me today, that it is NOT likely that players like Mississippi Fred McDowell, Muddy Waters, James "Son Ford" Thomas, Robert Johnson, Willie Brown, Tommy Johnson, etc. were saying "Let's all sit around and play blues music". Rather, do you think they just thought, "I'm gonna get a guitar and play it" and didn't really pay any attention to the genre?

I think, NOW, we call it "blues" music for some very complicated reasons, not the least of which is not only the land where the music came from, but the prolific use of the flatted 3rd and 7th scale tones. However, history loves labels. So, it hit me today, were these folks really blues? Wasn't Billie Holiday really Jazz?

What "IS" Blues, and what was it? Do you think Muddy Waters really thought, "Hey, I'm gonna be a blues star"?

4 Answers

  • Martin
    Lv 7
    7 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Melting Media pointed you in the right direction. They were musicians eager to play whatever would get them hired for a social event, or put coins in the tip jar at a juke or when playing on the street. Sometime in the late 50's/early 60s, the folk music "mafia" decide to start calling certain black performers of the late teens-early 30s "songsters" due to the wide variety of their repertoire. This included people like Mance Lipscomb, Papa Charlie Jackson, Frank Stokes, and even Mississippi John Hurt. However, further research, combined with a bit of, late to arrive, common sense (blues scholarship is not more immune than any other field) has resulted in the fact that most of us now understand that almost ALL rural black (and white) musicians of the time were all too happy to play anything from parlor songs to novelties to blues, string band tunes, marches...anything to make a living.

    It was known as blues at least as early as the mid-teens, and I do have to say that you're a bit mistaken-Muddy Waters most definitely thought "I'm going to be a blues man", as did the majority of those who came along after, say the mid 20s when the "classic blues" exploded in popularity via radio and records, including Robert Johnson, who was VERY eager to become a recording star.

    P.S. Yes, Billie was really Jazz. Her accompaniment, her milieu, and most importantly, her phrasing make her Jazz, albeit with a heavy blues feel.

    @ Big Boss Man-no offense, but you've got the history fairly twisted. You're about two decades late on when blues were first recorded (and called blues on the label), and Robert Johnson came long after countless others, and Muddy, Big Bill Broonzy, and others were touring Europe with the "America Folk Blues Festival" before the re-release of Robert's recordings in '61-the whole world had been referring to "blues" or "the blues" long before either event.

  • 3 years ago

    The blues can quite be stated to begin at a certian time due to the fact that that point may be the very opening of human style and after we developed the capability to believe disappointment (the blues) and have been capable to specific it. At present we suppose of the blues as a style of song making use of the 12 bar blues and the classic pentatonic with a sharp third but that was just an adaptation to strengthen the tone the actual coronary heart of the blues lies within expression and talking about your issues.

  • Anonymous
    7 years ago

    It was not often called anything until about 1940 when all of these musicians finally started recording,up until then it was called "music" not "blues" when robert johnsons recordings were released in 1961,then most everyone called it the blues due to titles like "Crossroads Blues" and "Traveling Riverside Blues"

  • 7 years ago

    Everyone you mention was trying to make money in the entertainment industry. Blues was the music that their audiences wanted.

    I'll let others answer as to when it became known as blues.

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