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Rural Blues

How does it expand?

By 1912, the American sheet music publishing industry released some of the first compositions associated with blues, including Hart Wand's Dallas Blues and W. C. Handy's Memphis Blues.

The first blues recordings date back to the 1920s, a period when it was often barely distinguishable from country music. Because of racial segregation, record companies created the labels racial music and hillbilly music.

W. C. Handy - Ole Miss Rag (1917)

Ragtime track composed by Handy himself and recorded by Handy's Orchestra of Memphis in New York. It is considered the beginning of the transition to the blues.


William Christopher Handy was a well-trained musician, composer and arranger who helped popularize blues, transcribing and orchestrating it in almost any symphonic genre, with groups and singers. Although his compositions can be defined as a mixture of ragtime and jazz, he is considered the father of the blues as he gave it its contemporary form, using syncopated rhythms. He also did a great job of picking up the regional style of delta blues and making it one of the dominant forces in American music.

How did it evolve?

Over the next few years of the decade, blues evolved from bars to elegant music clubs. There was also an important diversification of styles and an even clearer distinction of jazz.

As the recording industry grew, blues performers gained notoriety in African-American communities. Soon a distinction was made between rural blues (called country blues and more traditional) and urban blues (more polished).

Louis Armstrong - Saint Louis Blues (1933)

A version that Armstrong recorded with his orchestra of a blues song composed by W. C. Handy in 1914.


St. Louis blues is an early blues theme and is a fundamental part of the repertoire of jazz musicians, who call it the Hamlet of the jazzman. It first appeared in the short film The Star Boarder (Charlot, Ideal Guest), directed by George Nichols and starring Charles Chaplin, which was released on April 4, 1914. It became so popular that it inspired the appearance of the popular foxtrot ballroom dance. This composition is also mentioned in works by William Faulkner or Jean-Paul Sartre.

What do we find in rural blues?

Among the styles of rural blues, the Mississippi delta blues stands out, with deep roots and passionate voices accompanied by steel guitar. Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton or Son House stand out.

Other styles were the Piedmont blues by Blind Willie McTell, who used a very elaborate technique of playing the guitar without a plectrum, and the Memphis blues, with multi-instrumentalists like Memphis Minnie or guitarists like Furry Lewis.

Robert Johnson - Sweet Home Chicago (1937)

Written by Johnson himself, it's an example of a Mississippi delta blues song and a Chicago city anthem.

Robert Leroy Johnson is known as the King of Delta Blues. His recordings from 1936 to 1937, although few, show a remarkable combination of singing talent, guitar playing and songwriting skills that would influence several generations of musicians. His mysterious life, which is scarcely documented, and his death at the age of 27 have led to the spread of many legends about him. Considered the Grandfather of Rock and Roll, he has marked great stars such as Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton, who says he is "the most important blues musician who ever lived”.