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Rhythm and Blues

How did blues evolve?

Just as many jazz musicians did, during the Great Black Migration (especially between 1920 and 1950) many blues artists migrated in search of work to northern industrial cities.

The rural blues mixed with a hard and heavy rhythm giving rise to an urban and electric blues. This new blues, which the record companies called rhythm and blues, was very popular in cities like Chicago, Detroit and Kansas City.

Memphis Slim - Nobody Loves Me (1949)

Adaptation he made in the jump-blues style of the song Everyday I Have the Blues composed by the Sparks brothers. It is the link between traditional blues and the popular electric blues.

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Jump-blues is a type of urban blues, developed by musicians like Louis Jordan or Memphis Slim. It is a mixture of classic blues with humorous lyrics and rhythms inherited from boogie-woogie that acted as a precursor of rhythm and blues. Very popular in the 1940s, this is a more danceable music than the blues but deeper than swing, although it also includes other slower pieces such as ballads. Jump-blues was rescued in the eighties by musicians like Joe Jackson or Brian Setzer.

What was this new electric blues like?

It was developed by black musicians who impregnated it with a great deal of authenticity. It uses electric guitars and bass, drums, harmonicas or saxophones, in other words, the formation that will later be inherited by rock and roll bands.

Chicago became the center of this genre in the early 1950s. With influences from the delta blues and its characteristic use of steel guitar and harmonica, the Chicago blues was the predominant style.

Sonny Boy Williamson II - Don't Start Me Talkin' (1955)

Song of its own composition and in which the style of the Chicago blues is evident. Some of the best musicians of the style accompanied him in the recording.

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Aleck Ford, known as Sonny Boy Williamson II, was an American poet, musician and composer, considered the last legend of the blues. Born on the Sara Jones plantation near Glendora, Mississippi, he developed his style and personality working alongside great musicians like Robert Johnson from the 1930s onwards. Later he settled in Chicago where he consolidated his career. He also recorded with British artists such as The Animals or The Yardbirds.

What's going on in Chicago?

Chicago created a school with artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon or Jimmy Reed, all born in the state of Mississippi. Also outstanding were Little Walter, Elmore James, Freddie King or Sonny Boy Williamson II.

Most of them recorded for a local and independent label called Aristocrat Records which, in 1950, was bought by the brothers Leonard and Phill Chess and renamed Chess Records.

Howlin' Wolf - Smokestack Lightning (1956)

A theme of his own authorship and inspired by the trains he saw during his childhood on a southern farm. It has been described as "a distillation of the essence of the blues".

Chester Burnett, known as Howlin' Wolf, was one of the leading artists of the electric blues. He was born in White Station, Mississippi, where he worked as a sharecropper and learned to play the guitar from bluesman Charly Patton. With one of the most memorable voices of all blues singers, he recorded for Chicago's Chess Records. This label released some of the most influential standards in blues and rock and roll. In addition, it counted with outstanding producers such as Ralph Bass, Willie Dixon or Roquel "Billy" Davis.

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