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PHOTO ESSAY

The Blues

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Blind Willie McTell

Blind Willie McTell. Courtesy of Georgia Music Magazine.

At the same time Mamie Smith and Ma Rainey were making recording history, other blues styles were emerging from different regions of the United States. Three areas in particular came to be associated with a specific sound: the Piedmont, the Mississippi Delta, and Texas. Important differences existed between the three styles—collectively referred to as "country" to distinguish them from the more modern burlesques of the blues queens—but so did many similarities, chief among them a pervasively plaintive, stripped-down feel. The 1920s country style, exemplified by musicians such as Son House (Mississippi Delta), Leadbelly (Texas), and Blind Willie McTell (Piedmont), has in many ways remained the quintessential blues archetype. It was also through these guitarists that the AAB (or "12-bar") style, now so intimately associated with the genre, began to take shape. Still, as music historian Elijah Wald notes, women singers backed by jazz ensembles remained much more relevant at this point, frequently selling out major performances, a feat never matched by country bluesmen.

Wald, Elijah. The Blues: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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