Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

Sign up for Emails

Sign up now to receive an email alert for the Focus On feature!

GO

Privacy Policy

Previous Features

PHOTO ESSAY

The Blues

Back Arrow Previous

Photo 6 of 9

Next Next Arrow
Juke joint

Juke joint and bar in the Belle Glade area, vegetable section of south central Florida. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Despite their "country" aesthetic, professional blues musicians of the 1920s and 1930s made their careers in cities, where juke joints, rent party gigs, and, most importantly, recording studios were found. Accordingly, successful musicians had to be more sophisticated than their "simple" music might imply. The melancholic blues wail, so romanticized by succeeding generations of fans and scholars, was undoubtedly authentic—but perhaps much more deliberate than the genre's boosters might be comfortable acknowledging. One particular blues substyle known as "hokum" alluded to this: Fast-paced and characterized by double entendre, the hokum repertoire included songs such as "It's Tight Like That" (Tampa Red), "Let Me Squeeze Your Lemon" (Blind Boy Fuller), and "Me and My Chauffeur" (Memphis Minnie). All were catchy, popular tunes, unquestionably crafted by musicians and songwriters who took commercial considerations seriously. Similar good-time styles that emerged around the same time, such as barrelhouse and boogie-woogie, received considerable play in white bars, suggesting, again, that blues players were keenly aware of market considerations.

Back Arrow Previous

Photo 6 of 9

Next Next Arrow